Re: [-empyre-] Re: Writing Culture

Initially, I am skeptical of such grandscale utopian forecasts for computers. BUT, I also read and frequently ponder works such as "He, She It" and tell myself that intelligent machines may not come to be in my lifetime, but given experimentation and quest by our group and by those who will follow, it could very well happen when I have passed through the portal of my physical body.

After all, it was only in the 40s that Vannevar Bush predicted the Memex ...

----- Original Message ----- From: "Bill Seaman" <>
To: <>
Sent: Sunday, October 23, 2005 10:02 AM
Subject: [-empyre-] Re: Writing Culture

Re: Writing Culture


Humankind has chosen differing metaphors in history to point at their nature. At one time it was the pump, at another time it was clockwork, and currently computers are a prevalent metaphor (amongst others). [see Hayles below]

The question is, is the body a computer or machine-like in some capacity?
There is not a computer that currently has the complexity of the body - far from it. Yet, one can glean operative principles from the body - analogues, and work toward making an "intelligent" machine, or work toward emulating some of the functional aspects of the body, by abstracting knowledge of the body's functionality.

By attempting to study the body in this way , we often learn more about its deep complexity- more about ourselves. It is in this light that I am interested in working toward making "intelligent" systems.

In a sense this becomes a form of a "writing of analogues of the body," in part through code - as well as through developing embodied systems that enable a deep contextual knowledge, that learn, that employ "natural" language, that come to have a strong intermingling with environment - that are situated. The ability of a machine to achieve (or emulate) these bodily attributes is on the horizon. So if we currently say the body is a computer or sorts, then we have to say we haven't as yet manufactured one (a computer) with near the complexity. It may be in the distant future that computers that once emulated the complexity of the body will transcend that complexity. [the name computer comes from people who compute... Babbage/Lovelace were attempting to mechanize this activity in terms of the attempted functionality of the first computers][[see also Agree on the negative aspects of Babbage]]

So the study of the body informs the production of new computers, and new computers often inform how we begin to look back at the body - they illuminate bodily functions through their difference (and similarities) from the body. We will never make an exact replica of a machinic body through analogues. We may however enable the construction of devices which in the long run have sentient-like, creative qualities. [See See Bar-Cohen, Yoseph and Breazeal, Cynthia, Biologically Inspired Robots, SPIE Press, Washington, 2003 for a state of the art look at bio-mimetic systems]

So the project of seeking to "write the analogical body" via code functioning with other physical mechanisms (and in particular the abstraction of portions or fragments of these emulations back into more traditional computing systems) will no doubt inform the nature of electronic writing as it enables the writer to extend their cretive potentials in new ways via code authorship.


The micro levels will become increasingly important, and the potential to operate on the micro levels be it through code, nano-technology, new forms of bio-technology, new studies of endophysics, automata theory etc. will become a major branch of study. [This is not to say that there will not be an ethics to such mechanisms, on the contrary we need to be socially and critically aware that such "writerly' mechanisms that are already under construction, often for non-humanitarian reasons...]

The challenge will be to develop new forms of digital creation that will enable people to explore differing levels of authorship through intelligent-object-based modular systems of construction. A second challenge will be in developing language where people from different disciplines can talk to each other about what the potentials of such systems might be, and alternately incorporating these potentials into the new object-based code construction environments. The third will be in making intelligent systems that also become authors (exhibit creativity through the emulation of human behavior) [this may enable very powerful human/machine symbiotic-like inter-authorship modes] as well as illuminate authorship via displacement; . The forth challenge will relate to being socially/critically aware of how these systems affect our coming to know the world.


ja said:

this realization of the intimate nature of language will have propogated
from the micro to the macro levels, so that there will be a notion of the
reality of writing without design at the macro levels of the universe.
writing in the sense that non-conscious processes like computers can both be
governed by and give rise to language that, in turn, like solular inimita,
can generate higher levels of complex organization in things. but also
non-human made things can 'evolve' in this way.

Hayles Quote (see :
discussion by katherine hayles of macro intimata, ie, reality as virtual)

Mathematician Stephan Wolfram has recently proposed that many different kinds of complex systems, including human thought and action, can be modeled using cellular automata. These very simple computational systems have demonstrated that they are capable of generating complex patterns using simple rules. According to physicist Ed Fredkin, cellular automata underlie physical reality on a subatomic level; in his view, nature itself is software running on a Universal Computer. This presentation will look critically at these claims, asking whether we should consider them as physical models or as over-determined metaphors that would inevitably emerge in a historical period when computation is pervasive. This issue, and its proliferating implications, will be explored through Greg Egan's print novel Permutation City, which imagines a world in which it is possible to simulate a person's consciousness inside a computer, creating a Copy that has all the personality and memories of the original.

Professor Bill Seaman, Ph.D.
Department  Head
Digital+ Media Department (Graduate Division)
Rhode Island School of Design
Two College St.
Providence, R.I. 02903-4956
401 277 4956
fax 401 277 4966
empyre forum

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