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Music, Technology, and Psychological Warfare

“No change can be made in styles of music without affecting the most
important conventions of society.  So Damon declares and I agree.”

—Plato, Republic

The late Sam Shapiro used to tell a story about two Englishmen in China who wanted to demonstrate the superiority of their culture to one of the mandarins they had met.  They erected a tennis court in front of his residence and proceeded to play in front of him in the hot sun for two hours.  After the game was over, the two sweaty Englishmen asked the mandarin what he thought.  “Wouldn’t it be simpler,” the mandarin replied, “to have your servants do this for you?”

The mandarin’s response brings us directly to the question of delegation and indirectly to the issue of technology, which makes much of the delegation of modern life possible.  There are some functions that no one, not even the very rich, delegates.  Chewing food comes immediately to mind.  So does begetting children, although the inexorable march of the technically possible has muddied these waters somewhat.  The other end of the spectrum is made up of the sort of activity that no one (in his right mind) would do if he could pay someone to do it for him—shoveling manure from a stable, mowing the lawn, changing oil in your...

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