Future great dead people

I was in a meeting with some fellow faculty today, in which we were trying to work out how best to evolve the curriculum at NYU to include what might be called “computational media”. Obviously this is a moving target. The computational media of ten years ago, of now, and of ten years from now are all quite different.

I think this is mainly because of Moore’s Law. Available compute power determines what sorts of forms of cyber-enabled expression will impact the culture in any given year. For example, desktop publishing really only started to become practical about thirty years ago. Similarly, wireless streaming of content (first songs, and then movies and TV), have only become practical in recent years. And we are just now hitting the wave of practical high quality consumer-level VR and AR.

But independent of all that, we needed to figure out what is the proper role of the University in all this. Trying to frame the issue in terms of a University’s fundamental purpose, I offered the following:

“We can divide the University’s mission into two parts. First, roughly speaking, we have research and teaching to understand the existing work of great dead people. And second, we have research and teaching to nurture the emerging work of future great dead people.”

As soon as the words had left my mouth, I realized, to my extreme embarrassment, that I had phrased that last part very awkwardly. Fortunately, my colleagues basically agreed with me.

That is, as soon as they could stop laughing.

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