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Thursday, October 9
by Ron on October 9, 2008 08:57PM (PDT)
I've taken the liberty of typing in all of Chapter 4 of my copy of this important book, because it powerfully addresses one of the main themes of SCIY, the manifold relationships between science, culture, and consciousness. (ron)
"It is a paradox of the work of Artificial Intelligence that in order to grant consciousness to machines, the engineers first labor to subtract it from humans, as they work to foist upon philosophers a caricature of consciousness in the digital switches of weights and gates in neural nets. As the caricature goes into public circulation with the help of the media, it becomes an acceptable counterfeit currency, and the humanistic philosopher of mind soon finds himself replaced by the robotics scientist. ...
"Both the mechanists and the mystics say that we are now at a great bifurcation in human evolution. The mechanists like Ray Kurzweil, Danny Hillis, and Hans Moravec prophesy that we are at the end of the human era, and that 'nanobots' are about to be embedded in our bodies until our antique organs of flesh are entirely surrounded by a new silicon noosphere of networked computers. Like ancient mitochondria or chloroplasts surrounded by the gigantic eukaryotic cells, we are about to be engulfed in the next evolutionary stage. So the mechanists see noetic technologies surrounding human culture and consciousness and compressing it into an endosymbiont in a larger and swifter and more elegant evolutionary vehicle. ...
"Mystics flip this literalism over to see technology as a system of externalized metaphors that derive from pre-existing ontological modes at play and at large in the universe... For the mystic — be she Cabbalist or Sufi — an angel is a 'Celestial Intelligence' — a form of cosmic noetic organization that does not require a detour through animal evolution. So when Kurzweil claims that by 2030 implanted nanobots in the bloodstream will enable humans to turn off to the outside world to attune to a virtual reality, the mystic would recognize a literalist rendering of the process of meditation. Kurzweil's vision of the world in 2030 reminds me of Borges's 'Library of Babel'. 'I suspect that the human species — the unique species — is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, useless, incorruptible, secret'.  And here we need to be sensitive to the full force of Borges's use of the word 'Babel'. ... " more »
Tuesday, October 7
by Rich on October 7, 2008 07:14PM (PDT)
In his 'Postscript on Control Societies,' Deleuze marks our emergence from the disciplinary, panoptic societies Foucault studies. He describes a movement from a society 'equipped with thermodynamic machinces presenting the passive danger of entropy and the active danger of sabotage' to a society functioning 'with information technology and computers, where the passive danger is noise and the active, piracy and viral contamination' (Deleuze, 1995: 180). Deleuze's observations suggest more than a shift in the metaphors by which we understand society; they indicate a shift in the material relationship between humans and machines. Deleuze and Guattari's work has extensively explored this relationship, from molecular proto-machines of desire to the molar assemblages of the state. Their work operates, in part, on the shifting boundaries between aesthetic and technological paradigms. Science Fiction has also worked upon this boundary. Though the generic term 'Science Fiction' only hints at the multiple possibilities for communication (and contamination) between the two, Deleuze and Guattari recognize its potential, noting that the genre 'has gone through a whole evolution taking it from animal, vegatable and mineral becomings to becomings of bacteria, viruses, molecules, and things impreceptible' (1987: 248). more »
Tuesday, June 10
by Rich on June 10, 2008 05:09PM (PDT)
This demo shows the use of Second Life as a platform for Augmented Reality. With our modified Second Life client, avatars and other Second Life graphicss can be superimposed perspectively correct on a live video stream and in real-time. more »
Friday, April 25
by Rich on April 25, 2008 10:05AM (PDT)
(image courtesy www.idf.net)
Donna Haraway's cyborg manifesto is one of the most important text of cyber-cultural studies as well as feminist studies of the past twenty years. Her conclusion that she draws, "I'd rather be a cyborg than a goddess" is grounded in the following analysis of the cyborg given here by Carolyn Keen (rc):
"Cyborg replication is uncoupled from organic reproduction" (150) "The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family" (151).
The cyborg does not aspire to "organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity" (150). The cyborg "is not afraid of joint kinship with animals and machines...of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints" (154). The cyborg is the "illegitimate child" of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism.
The cyborg thus evades traditional humanist concepts of women as childbearer and raiser, of individuality and individual wholeness, the heterosexual marriage-nuclear family, transcendentalism and Biblical narrative, the great chain of being (god/man/animal/etc.), fear of death, fear of automatism, insistence upon consistency and completeness. It evades the Freudian family drama, the Lacanian m/other, and "natural" affiliation and unity. It attempts to complicate binary oppositions, which have been "systemic to the logics and practices of domination of women, people of colour, nature, workers, animals" (177).
Haraway likens "cyborg" to the political identity of "women of color," which "marks out a self-consciously constructed space that cannot affirm the capacity to act on the basis of natural identification, but only on the basis of conscious coalition, of affinity, of political kinship" (156). "Cyborg" though, is grounded in "political-scientific" analysis. This analysis takes up most of the "manifesto." (Keen) ... more »
Monday, November 19
by Ron on November 19, 2007 07:34PM (PST)
Optimism exists on a continuum in between confidence and hope. Let me take these in order.
I am confident that the acceleration and expanding purview of information technology will solve within twenty years the problems that now preoccupy us. -- Consider energy. We are awash in energy (10,000 times more than required to meet all our needs falls on Earth) but we are not very good at capturing it. That will change with the full nanotechnology-based assembly of macro objects at the nano scale, controlled by massively parallel information processes, which will be feasible within twenty years. Even though our energy needs are projected to triple within that time, we'll capture that .0003 of the sunlight needed to meet our energy needs with no use of fossil fuels, using extremely inexpensive, highly efficient, lightweight, nano-engineered solar panels, and we'll store the energy in highly distributed (and therefore safe) nanotechnology-based fuel cells. Solar power is now providing 1 part in 1,000 of our needs, but that percentage is doubling every two years, which means multiplying by 1,000 in twenty years.
Almost all the discussions I've seen about energy and its consequences (such as global warming) fail to consider the ability of future nanotechnology-based solutions to solve this problem. This development will be motivated not just by concern for the environment but also by the $2 trillion we spend annually on energy. This is already a major area of venture funding.
Consider health. As of just recently, we have the tools to reprogram biology. This is also at an early stage but is progressing through the same exponential growth of information technology, which we see in every aspect of biological progress. The amount of genetic data we have sequenced has doubled every year, and the price per base pair has come down commensurately. The first genome cost a billion dollars. The National Institutes of Health is now starting a project to collect a million genomes at $1,000 apiece. We can turn genes off with RNA interference, add new genes (to adults) with new reliable forms of gene therapy, and turn on and off proteins and enzymes at critical stages of disease progression. We are gaining the means to model, simulate, and reprogram disease and aging processes as information processes. In ten years, these technologies will be 1,000 times more powerful than they are today, and it will be a very different world, in terms of our ability to turn off disease and aging. ... more »
Saturday, July 28
by Ron on July 28, 2007 01:00AM (PDT)
The 500-pound remotely piloted X-48B test vehicle, a blended wing body research aircraft that could fly more people and cargo more quietly in the future, took off for the first time on July 20 from Edwards Air Force Base in California...
The Boeing design features a wing that blends smoothly into a wide, flat, tailless fuselage. This fuselage blending provides additional lift with less drag compared to a circular fuselage, translating to reduced fuel use at cruise conditions. The engines mount high on the back of the aircraft, so there is less noise inside and on the ground when it is in flight. ...
Monday, June 4
by Ron on June 4, 2007 01:12PM (PDT)
...We humans tend to attribute much more intelligence to the systems than is actually there. If it seems partly aware, we assume it must be fully so. Some users have chatted with ALICE and Jabberwacky online for hours, apparently not knowing—or perhaps not caring—that they’re fake.
But could one chatbot fool another chatbot? What would one say to another in private? To find out, we arranged a conversation between these two chatbots. To get each snippet of chat rolling, we seeded it by posing a question from one bot to the other. After that, they were on their own. What follows is the unaltered text of what each said—the sound of two machines talking. ... more »
Thursday, April 12
by Ron on April 12, 2007 10:28AM (PDT)
...If we define the topic as the relation between the reader's, the character's, and the author's willingness to believe, then the matter is very different in Valis. In Valis the text does not offer the reader the incredible as already labeled incredible — zany or horrifying, extreme or bizarre. The incredible is offered as ordinary, as reportage. Is not this the frisson worked by this novel? Anyone reading a novel such as Ubik has to accept that the novel offers something visionary and phantasmagoric. Whether one then emphasizes the novel's treatment of the deliquescence of commodity in late capitalism, or, with George Slusser, one then emphasizes its rendition of ``historicity'' in relation to an open, Emersonian event horizon, one has to pay attention to that explicit inventiveness which constitutes the shimmering portal... through which any reader gains entrance to that novel and others like it. Valis is different. ...
Many of Dick's values are strongly liberal and humanist. He values the little guy who dissents, resists, and persists, if necessary, alone; he values the single humble act, the individual saved..., the broken pot fixed, the embrace of two strangers in the dark and rain-spattered forecourt of a gas station... And liberal values, and hopes, are subjected to intense torsion, or distortion, in Dick's novels. [Fredrick] Jameson has traced this in Dr. Bloodmoney, whose bizarre cast's weird actions he sees as Dick's response to a threatened "leftist" belief that good and evil in history can be attached to individuals. Dick values that which is unassimilated — unassimilated into the mechanical and collective, into an oppressive society, into a single godhead, into entropy; but the urgency of assertion and defense of that value leads him to break all traditional definitions of the human individual. Liberal humanism, passed through this sieve, emerges as intuition of the potential value in androids, gods, animals, robots: anywhere and wherever life asserts a distinctness, rather than threatening it. The issue must be fraught with danger: vindication of the human, if it is to be achieved, will only be effective if the human has been profoundly jeopardized. ... more »
Tuesday, April 10
by Ron on April 10, 2007 11:30AM (PDT)
...Unlike most religious seers, Dick did not approach his visions with anything like certitude. Dick distrusted reification of any sort (his novels constantly wage war against the process that turns people and ideas into things), and so he refused to solidify his experiences into a belief system. ...Dick approached his theophany (or "in-breaking of God") as artistic material, reworking it in his writings with an artist's commitment to irony, craft, and a political bite. Even in his private journals, he constantly liquefies his revelations, writing with a modern thinker's sense of the tentativeness of speculative thought.
... Dick's Black Iron Prison imaginatively captured the "disciplinary apparatus" of power analyzed by historian Michel Foucault. Demonstrating that prisons, mental institutions, schools, and military establishments all share similar organizations of space and time, Foucault argued that a "technology of power" was distributed throughout social space, enmeshing human subjects at every turn. Foucault argued that liberal social reforms are only cosmetic brush-ups of an underlying mechanism of control. As Dick put it, "The Empire never ended."
"...today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups... unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. "
As Jean Baudrillard has argued into the ground, simulation rather than representation has become the defining characteristic of cultural signs and artifacts in our time. ... The technological simulacrum creates its own reality, which Baudrillard calls the "hyperreal," a kind of ersatz parody of Plato's ideal world of forms. For example, when you download a printer driver from the Internet or record a CD onto digital tape, you do not "copy" the information so much as replicate a hyperreal object.
... As an exhausted rationalist, Baudrillard simply abandoned himself to a morbid celebration of the pixel apocalypse, giving up any notion of resistance or transformation while ignoring the messy realities that gum up the works of all such grand intellectual scenarios. But Dick never gave up his commitment to the "authentically human," the "viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new." He also recognized that simulacra lie deep in our souls, and that we are not so far from the spiritual paradigms of the ancient world, with their camouflage spirits, talking images, and automata gods. And so Dick redeployed the gnostic struggle for authenticity and freedom within the hard-sell universe of simulation. The world is a prison not because of its materiality—which was the opinion of the ancient Gnostics—but because of the hidden orders of power and control it houses: the various corporate, political, and ideological archons herding us into increasingly compelling synthetic worlds. ... more »
Monday, February 26
by Ron on February 26, 2007 02:26PM (PST)
Ray Kurzweil wrote this article as the introduction to James Gardner's new book, "The Intelligent Universe: AI, ET, and the Emerging Mind of the Cosmos." It's a good summary of Ray's latest thinking. Though its very techno-optimistic view is contrary to the post-modern skeptical flavor often presented on SCIY, I've been following Ray's thinking for years and continue to be impressed with his erudite scholarship. -- In any case, I believe it's an important function of SCIY to present viewpoints that are contrary to our own; to be skeptical of our own skepticism.
... It is remarkable to me that almost all of the discussions of cosmology fail to mention the role of intelligence. In the common cosmological view, intelligence is just a bit of froth, something interesting that happens on the sidelines of the great cosmic story. But in the standard view, whether the universe winds up or down, ends up in fire (a great crunch and new Big Bang), or ice (an ever-expanding and ultimately dead universe), or something in-between, depends only on measures of dark matter, dark energy, and other parameters we have yet to discover. That the story of the universe is a story yet to be written by the intelligence it will spawn is almost never mentioned. This book will help to change the common "unintelligent" view.
So what will we do when our intelligence is in the range of a google (10^100) cps? One thing we may do is to engineer new universes. Similarly, our universe may be the creation of some superintelligences in another universe. In this case, there was an intelligent designer of our universe--that designer would be the evolved intelligence of some other universe that created ours. Perhaps our universe is a science fair experiment of a student in another universe. (Reading the news of the day, you might get the impression that this erstwhile adolescent superintelligence who designed our universe is not going to get a very good grade on his or her project.)
But the evolution of intelligence here on Earth is actually going very well. All of the vagaries (and tragedies) of human history, such as two world wars, the cold war, the great depression, and other notable events, did not make even the slightest dent in the ongoing exponential progressions I previously mentioned. ... more »
Wednesday, August 30
by Ron on August 30, 2006 12:36PM (PDT)
Human experience is marked by a refusal to obey our limitations. We’ve escaped the ground, we’ve escaped the planet, and now, after thousands of years of effort, our quest to build machines that emulate our own appearance, movement and intelligence is leading us to the point where we will escape the two most fundamental confines of all: our bodies and our minds. Once this point comes—once the accelerating pace of technological change allows us to build machines that not only equal but surpass human intelligence—we’ll see cyborgs (machine-enhanced humans like the Six Million Dollar Man), androids (human-robot hybrids like Data in Star Trek) and other combinations beyond what we can even imagine. ... more »
A Review of Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe" by Amit Chaudhuri (London Review of Books) Debashish
AntiMatters vol 3 no 4 is out koantum
Classicism, post-classicism and Ranjabati Sircar’s work: re-defining the terms of Indian contemporary dance discourses by Alessandra Lopez y Royo Debashish
LACMA 111909 - Debashish Banerji Debashish
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler