Thursday, December 9, 2010


Audience (B&W)

A group of monks came to work this week, in order to create a mandala. The monks told me they travel from place to place, making mandalas as a kind of blessing. Each mandala is made from grains of dyed sand, dispensed from little metal tubes where sand flow was controlled by the vibration of tapping two of them together.

The central point of the mandala is that it is a meditation on the impermanence of the world -- they spend a week of onerous work making it, then after a closing ceremony, they sweep it away.

Several of my friends commented that it was odd that I would be preserving pictures of a mandala in digital form, where they said it would be permanent. I felt somewhat the opposite -- even if you believed that digital bits will end up being preserved forever in some great computer cluster in the sky, the fact is that they are fundamentally malleable. Not only can they be deleted at a moment's notice, they can be changed at any time.

Modern physics also indicates that for at least some of our theoretical models of the universe, there may only be a finite number of computations possible in our universe, and only a finite number of bits which could be stored, even in the limit, so I'm even less sanguine about the future of bits.

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