It has been a few weeks since I traded for Melanie Bamberg’s Broken City triptych, but I wasn’t having any luck in getting another trade. As I sat around thinking about this fact a few nights ago, two thoughts struck me.
First, it occurred to me that perhaps in the near future someone will make a machine that can create a perfect molecule for molecule replica of Starry Night. There is already a process – it is called Giclee --that produces a painting from a digital picture. It is like a Xerox machine for painting. So I could take a picture of Starry Night and Giclee it. But a Giclee is hardly a molecule for molecule duplicate. What I have in mind would be a process that analyzes a painting at the level of molecules and reproduces it.
Such a machine is a popular one in philosophical thought experiments. One is asked to imagine a machine that could produce an exact replica of a painting and is then asked whether one would prefer the original or the duplicate. Of course, just about everyone would prefer to own the original, which is meant to show that our aesthetic preferences are shaped by factors that are extrinsic to works of art. As a result, philosophers conclude, either factors completely extrinsic to a work of art, factors like its causal origin, alter its aesthetic value or we have irrational aesthetic preferences.
But to my knowledge, no one has speculated that such a machine will in fact exist. And so I have formulated the following thesis, which I shall call the replicator thesis (RT).
RT: Within 100 years there will be a machine that can produce a molecule for molecule replica of Starry Night.
A second thought popped into my head the other night as well. I have yet to declare to the universe that I want someone to trade for my Melanie Bamberg. And that made me think about the extent to which asking for something raises the chances of getting that thing.
It seems to me that asking is almost always a good strategy. If you ask, and the person (or universe) says ‘yes’, then you get what you want. If the person says ‘no’, you are no worse off than if you hadn’t asked. The only problem comes in situations in which asking causes someone who was antecedently planning on giving you what you want not to give. But that type of situation, it seems to me, is fairly rare.
So I formulated a second thesis. I shall call it the Asking Thesis (AT):
AT: Asking for what you want is almost always a better strategy than not asking.
And having formulated that thesis, I was determined to declare to the universe that I want someone to trade for my Melanie Bamberg original triptych. But the very next day, I got lucky. A professional artist who paints in the abstract style saw Melanie’s paintings hanging on my wall and really liked them. She said that she has a painting that she wants to trade for Melanie’s. I am supposed to go see it on Saturday. I can’t wait. So I will save my desire declarations for another time.
AMANDA C. MATHIS
5 weeks ago