In awarding the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature to T.S. Eliot, the Swedish Academy cited the “horror vacui (Latin for “fear of empty space”) of modern man in a secularized world, without order, meaning, or beauty” that Eliot wrote about and confronted. This demise of Literary Culture, bemoaned for over 100 years, commenced with World War I and its aftermath.
Popular Culture has evolved from war and debasement of authority in the 20th Century. The Information Age provides on-demand entertainment and, as Eliot and many others would describe, pseudo-culture to billions of people. A supermarket of easy to understand programming.
But Cultural Literacy is challenging and comprehensive:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) could usher in a new Renaissance, a “reinvented version of Humanism“. AI algorithms will access great works of classical antiquity and Western Literary Canon, and, aided by 190,000 word vocabularies (Shakespeare’s plays use 33,000), will write original, comprehensive and allusive literature. Curated AI is now publishing poetry and prose written only by machines.
Eliot wrote that “poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion”. Machine learning, unemotional, evolving with experience, offers a “predictive” quality. Will history and Literary Culture predictably repeat themselves with Plato and Aristotle at the center?