It’s Going to Be a Colorful Century

What excites the legendary computer scientist about the future? In a word: graphics.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What makes you optimistic about the century ahead?

David Gelernter: We’re looking at—in one word maybe I should say, graphics.  Not only computer graphics or animation, but the enormously increased scope for pictures; for showing pictures, for seeing pictures, for seeing things.  Seeing is a source of wisdom and pleasure in a lot of ways.  Mankind really has no vocabulary to discuss color because if you look at art history, until two generations ago, nobody knew what paintings looked like, they could be reproduced in black and white going back to the 19th century, before then they couldn’t be reproduced in any way at all, but until, say the 1930’s, ‘40’s, ‘50’s in the 20th century, there was no way to, you could say Titian is a great colorist, or Velazquez has extraordinary subtle browns, or the reason the 13th century glass at Chartres is unique is because of the blue.  The special blue.  But you could see it.  You had to travel to France or to you know, Venice to see—wherever.  And not only that, once you were there, unless you stayed, you’re not going to stay planted in front of a picture in a museum and nor are you going to camp out in a cathedral.  But computers have not only made printing—has not only made displaying on their screens, but they made printing on paper—color printing—vastly better and inexpensive.

The possibility that we have now of seeing what mankind has done, the art that has been done, the cities that have been built, the landscapes that have drawn on people is a tremendously exciting—and to see each other, because ultimately that is what people want to see most of all is other people.  That’s exciting.  It opens up a new world that mankind has longed for ever since he’s seen... "Colors are good, and I want to make my world colorful, and I want to see my fellow human beings and I want to build things and I want the horizons to be further than what I can see from my front door."

Recorded on April 1, 2010.