Better

Computers are a magical topic for a lot of people. Not because computers are magic in and of themselves, but because everyone understands what a computer is differently. The space between each person’s understanding is where “bugs” or “magic” happen. As a computer nerd, my understanding is pretty technical. But I work with plenty of people whose understanding is something along the lines of, “I click here, type this word, click here, and poof, it’s done.” My understanding isn’t necessarily “better” than their understanding, because after all, the computer is just a tool: if it does what you want, it’s a good tool. Period. But I had a discussion with my brother (also a computer nerd) about value and we reached the conclusion that you can’t ask for better software. You can’t ask a computer to be better at anything. In fact, a computer and all the “best” software in the world doesn’t do anything we as a species couldn’t do before. It just let’s us do it faster. Think about the greatest confluence of “human” activity ever: facebook.com. Facebook, with all its bells and whistles, is still just people acting like people. The only difference is how quickly an action is broadcast to EVERYONE. That launched me into thought about defining “better.” As a musician and teacher, I live in the gray and subjective world of making myself, my students, my ensembles “better.” Better is measured by affect and effect, by aesthetic, by impression. Tempo and speed are a matter of choice. But as a by-day computer programmer, where the only real measure is “faster is better,” a...