Did you know science could be fun? Yes, science.
Archimedes did it. Einstein did it. Now it’s our turn. Lets do a thought experiment.
In this experiment, we’re going to transport one of the best paintings from the impressionist era back a hundred years (give or take) so that it lands smack dab in the middle of one of the best art galleries of the romantic era.
See what we’re doing there? We’re sticking a little bit of the future into the past, and then figuring out what would happen.
What do YOU think will happen? Go ahead, write down your answer. I’ll wait.
(Insert girl from Ipanema here.)
Finished? Great. Now, here’s my take.
It won’t sell. No one’s going to buy it. Everyone will think a deranged teenager did it, and will tell the dealer to throw it away. Since it appeared mysteriously from the future, he won’t know who to give it to. Being a profit-minded guy, he’ll probably paint it over with gesso and sell the canvas to some poor artist who will put a proper painting over it.
Crazy? Not really. Consider going to an art gallery today. What do you see? Are there crazy pieces in there that drive you bonkers? Could it be that one of those will sell for millions of dollars in a hundred years?
How can we know?
Right now, we can’t. There’s this whole thing about fads and fashions that seems to be beyond anything reason will fathom, ever. Why do women prefer certain hairstyles through the ages. What about men and their beards, or hats? What about architecture, writing styles, music, and just about anything else you can imagine.
Until the day comes when we can at least start to describe a fashion and do it in an organized, scientific manner, there will be no hope of understanding, let alone predicting.
Until the day comes when we have a theory of behavior that contains fads and fashions within it, then even with the best descriptions in the world, we still aren’t going to make any progress.
Until then, hang onto that ridiculous object of art your Aunt Sally got you from that yard sale. It could be worth something. Someday.