I’m going to let you know surprising things in this blog post. Even though I don’t know how to drive, I’m really into cars. Even though I work as a professional geek my entire education and half my working life have been centered around really, really obscure and nerdy books.
I was watching a Top Gear clip on YouTube, with Michael Gambon (you probably know him as the bootleg Dumbledore from Harry Potter or as Philip Marlow from the BBC Singing Detective). When Clarkson is talking to Gambon, he mentions a Beckett theatre production he was performing in. In this incarnation of the play there is no spoken dialogue. Only a recording of an actress is heard, while a man (Gambon in this version) lays on a bed. There is is a camera above him, that is just focused on his face and throws a tight close up of his face onto a huge screen the audience can see. The camera gets closer and closer to his face as the play progresses. It’s a play called Krapp’s Last Tape, and despite having premiered in 1958, it feels and acts like it’s from the future.
What does this have to do with anything?
Many people argue that Samuel Beckett is the best writer in English to ever wake up pissed at the world. That’s not my opinion (Jane Austen FTW!), but it’s a solid argument I can respect. In the play Gambon is discussing, there are many parallels between what we create on the web and the way the play is stage. No dialogue. A disembodied, recorded, mechanically provided voice. Watching someone on video. Being stuck in front of a camera. Watching a piece of technology while actually being there in person. There are probably dozens of more significant parallels we can draw between this staging of Beckett’s play and the web, social media and technology.
I’m starting to wonder, possibly even be slightly worried about high art and technology not getting frisky enough. If Beckett created this play that is so relevant to how we’re using technology now, what is being created right now that will be relevant 50 years from now? There are certainly plenty of interesting futurists out there, like Ray Kurtzweil and Douglass Rushkoff. Still, I view them as brilliant technical people, not artists in the Beckett sense, though of course, these kinds of lines can get blurry at the edges.
I’m putting this out to you, people of the interwebz, because I sincerely want to know the answers. Who are the tech Beckett’s at work right now that people will be discussing over SkyNet 50 years hence?