If we were robots, with video camera eyes, everything in our visual field would be of equal value. So, why do our brains light up when we see flowers, sunsets and young women? Will we ever be able to program a robot to have a sense of beauty?
And if biology is the basis of beauty, why isn’t food and potential mates the only things we see as beautiful? How did a sense of beauty evolve in our minds? Does it serve a purpose? Isn’t a sense of beauty one of our most motivating qualities?
I love looking at photographs. I have a dual monitor setup and use John’s Background Switcher to display 8 photos on my desktops every 10 seconds, chosen from sites like 500px, Flickr and others. This way I see scenes from all over the world, nature, animals, forests, oceans, lakes, mountains, stars, buildings, bridges, and sometimes people. What’s strange is for some sites, when they show people, 95% of the time it’s a young woman, probably age 18-25. Now these are supposed to be art photos, not sex photos. Why are young women more artistically appealing than other people? Is there a reason other than sex?
Photographers do like taking pictures of other kinds of people, but even then the range is limited. It’s cute kids, or very old people with tons of wrinkles. (I assume wrinkles are very artistically inspiring, especially in black and white.) But statistically, young women are the dominate subjects for photographs of humans. Why do young women trigger the neurons that define beauty in our brains – more than any other object in reality? I don’t know how woman and gay men rate the beauty of young women, but I often hear them talk about beautiful women, so it isn’t just us guys brainwashed into seeking sex objects.
It’s not news that young women appeal to photographers, but I’m wondering why. Is it just sex, or are young women more aesthetically pleasing than other types of people, or even natural objects? Can we ever see young women without our brain being distorted by sexual programming? Aren’t flowers, sunsets, old cars, dogs and cats just as beautiful? And if artistic photographs were mainly about sex, why aren’t women photographers uploading pictures of young men in equal numbers? And what explains heterosexual women preferring to look at young women? Why aren’t women’s magazines, and their ads, showing an equal distribution of women of all ages and sizes?
If you follow photography you eventually realize certain subjects are more popular than others. Today’s amateur photographers are just amazing, equal to the best professionals just decades ago. Just look at a site like 500px.com.
The annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue just came out, and it gets a lots of attention. Why does it only show young women in swimsuits? Why not older women, or men? Sure sex sells, but why don’t we have a wider range of sexual stimulation. It’s often said we are a youth oriented culture – is that because we define beauty by being young? Is it possible to culturally reprogram ourselves so old men and women in skimpy bathing suits would be beautiful?
I think the photo above of Anna Bella is beautiful because of the woman, and because of the photographic composition, but could not a sixty-something woman have posed for the picture and the photo been just as beautiful if the picture had been composed for artistic reasons? Or is lustrous hair and fair skill absolute aspects of beauty?
I think the picture of the pug dog below is beautiful. I have no sexual attraction for dogs, and think pug dogs are ugly, but I think this photo is artistically beautiful. However, most of the photos I think of as stunningly beautiful at 500px either have gorgeous nature scenes, or they are of young women. However, if I put the picture of the woman above on the wall, my wife will think I’m a dirty old man, but think nothing if I put up a picture of a pug.
Even though I think pugs are butt-ugly, I think they are beautiful to look at. What explains that? Is cuteness an aspect of beauty? It would explain all the pictures of puppies, kittens and kids. How do we explain sunsets and flowers twisting our beauty sensors to 11? How much do bright colors figure in our sense of beauty. Think of fall trees.
Photography sites have billions of images of animals we find beautiful. What makes them beautiful? Not all animals are beautiful either. Puppies are cute, but a mangy dirty puppy isn’t. What makes one tiger stand out over another? Why are flowers so beautiful, or rolling hills? I’m sure there are thousands of books devoted to defining the philosophy of beauty, but shouldn’t it be obvious? Can beauty be scientifically determined? Or is it always something in the eye of the beholder? How many things do we find beautiful? Is it endless?
What moves us? That tree on the bare hill has impact, especially against the spectacular sky. What about the women below? The picture is beautiful, but there’s something beautiful about the woman too, as if her rich life experience shines out.
I’d like to know about the science of beauty. If we ever built robots with artificial intelligence that were self-aware, and conscious beings like ourselves, will they have a sense of beauty? And if they do, will what we think as beautiful overlap? Has there been any studies trying to find out if animals have a sense of beauty? Do dogs looking at people think some people are more beautiful than others? Are their favorites young women?
And is beauty just visual? Aren’t some smells wonderful, and others stinky? Are some sounds lovely and others ugly? Even textures and tastes have their aesthetics.
I keep an extra monitor going, not to have room for work windows, but to be constantly stimulated by beautiful scenes. Every ten second I see four more images on my left that inspire me about this world and reality. Lately, I’ve been most inspired by pug dogs. I’m not a dog person, I’m a cat person. But these weird little pugs have caught my attention. By the way, I like the gray woman below not because she’s beautiful, but because her grayness contrasts beautiful with the dirt and rocks. How can we possible explain why black and white is often more beautiful than color? Whatever beauty is I haven’t a clue to explain it.
JWH – 3/7/14