Tonight, a New Yorker article “The Artful Accidents of Google Books“, which reported a growing interest on Google Books scan mistakes, led me to the Tumblr site “The Art of Google Books“. I ended up checking the collection of photos on the site: some bizarre, some creepy, all reminders of what writer Kenneth Goldsmith said as “the work of an army of invisible laborers—the Google hands.”
This made me reflect on the less apparent but equally present human element in everything we do. Our technology, despite how we use it as a tool to correct our “imperfections” and preserve it for posterity, is itself shaped by our aspirations, shortcomings, and limitations. How we process the world, and the solutions we make based on our observations, has, is, and will always be framed by our humanity.
From another perspective, these scans aren’t laughable flaws–they’re actually, at some level, wonderful. They remind me of the wabi-sabi worldview which celebrates the imperfect and the transient as beautiful. The concept of appreciating impermanence and change–which could mean not postponing our present joy for the promise of an ideal future, and understanding that things/circumstances are not always problems we need to fix–helps us acknowledge that there are moments when we need to review/contemplate the objects and instances around us according to their own merits/attributes.
As we pressure ourselves to strive for higher ideals, it’s also cool to step back every once in a while to tell ourselves that hey, being human is not such a bad thing. It is what it is; we are what we are.