On our Ingrained Mechanophobia

A few months ago I attended a talk at SXSW titled Humans vs Machines: A Cognitive Revolution. Being the progressive place that SX is (or so I thought), I was hoping to hear some ideas about the thinking processes of humans and machines. Oh, boy…

What I heard was the exact opposite of what I was expecting. To put it briefly, the speaker’s point was that since “computers can’t be creative”, humans should leave all dirty work to them. Humans should dedicate themselves to the fine arts and those elevated activities of the mind and spirit. The speaker was so convinced that machines could not be creative that he never even explained why he thought so. Like many others, he assumed that machines are just a bunch of metal and gears put together and that nothing that was not there to begin with can arise from such basic components.

That line of thinking is a clear example of our ingrained mechanophobia or fear of machines. We love machines for all they can do for us but deep down we hate them for what they might become.


“Machines will become our most faithful servant”

That quote above is from the same talk and also what I call wishful thinking. I’m a rationalist materialist. This is it. Matter is all there is. We might not know what matter is (and some believe is ethereal information) but matter is all there is. We are matter, so are machines. We think, therefore matter thinks, and therefore, so machines will one day think.

One last note

This mechanophobia is so ingrained, it’s everywhere. I was just reading about the completely unrelated topic of web design and there it was staring back at me once again:

No machine will ever A/B test its way to a more meaningful relationship. —How to survive the digital apocalypse

Actually, if machines ever care to create a meaningful relationship with humans, it’s very likely that they will do so by trial and error. A/B testing would be a great idea in that regards.

WIP: Cover Designs for The Fall of the House of Usher

Here is a selection of covers. All of them are works in progress.

The Fall of the House of Usher, ebook covers

One of the reasons that I decided to start illustrating the book is because of how visually stimulating the writing is. The cover for the illustrated edition of “The Fall of the House of Usher” is inspired by the first paragraph of the story:

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.

The goals of the cover are:

  • Iconic cover: Create a cover in the style of the book illustrations: geometric, iconic images that should inspire rather than tell a full detailed story.
  • Contemporary look: To distinguish itself from old covers, and to communicate that this illustrated edition is not a classically illustrated story, but a modern, geometric, graphic edition.
  • Thumbnail friendly: Since this will be an ebook to be sold online (eg. Amazon), the image should work at small (as well as medium and large) sizes, be readable, etc.

I lost the first round of cover designs, and it was interesting to see how all the work I had put in the first series of covers, had somehow influenced the second wave. The experiments and trials were in my head even if I couldn’t physically look and reference them.

This made me wonder if I should start from scratch a third time, but then when should I stop? My engineering mind thinks that the better approach is to do A/B testing with the covers and let the public decide. Might try that.

WIP: End Card for The Fall of the House of Usher

I’m almost done preparing the illustrated ebook version of “The Fall of the House of Usher”. Hopefully will be finished in the next few days. Here’s the “end” card. 

The Fall of the House of Usher, The End Card

Geometric Blackletter Typeface

I wanted to create a title card for the ebook “The Fall of the House of Usher” that I am illustrating. All the pictures are geometric and so the type should be as well. I came across Blackletter script as I was investigating gothic typefaces, and actually it’s a pretty good type very close to the clean and regular lines contemporary geometric types.

Here is the title card for the book with a custom geometric version of blackletter type.

The Fall of the House of Usher, Geometric Blackletter Typeface Cover


I am working on a portrait of Edgar Allan Poe for an illustrated short story of him. I thought it would be appropriate to end the book with his picture and one of his quotes.

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.

Edgar Allan Poe WIP portrait

Some of my favorite quotes focus on the fuzzy boundaries between life and dead, sanity and madness, reality and dream.

Science has not yet taught us if madness is or is not the sublimity of the intelligence.

And my favorite so far,

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.