Programmed Dissatisfaction

Does one gene drive all progress in science and the arts?

Jack Woodall
May 31, 2007

We are a dissatisfied lot. The history of the human race is one of a relentless drive to change the status quo, resulting in what we call progress. We see it everywhere - our early ancestors experimented in caves with monochrome stick figures and target-like symbols, which gradually evolved into disproportioned polychrome renderings of hunted animals. Now, museums are filled with representations of everything under the sun, including masterpieces as detailed as anything can get using the human eye. (An artist will occasionally come full circle and release distorted and primitive paintings, which critics hail as original and forward-thinking.)

The same pattern is visible in sculpture, which has evolved from small crude carvings in bone and soft stone to the miraculously life-like, life-sized marble statues of Michelangelo. We have experimented with every conceivable material, including gigantic structures of stone, steel, and plastic. We're always trying something new - for evidence,...