TECHNOLOGY

THE CENTRAL METAPHOR OF EVERYTHING?

[12.2.01]

 

"One of the striking things about being a computer scientist in this age is that all sorts of other people are happy to tell us that what we do is the central metaphor of everything, which is very ego gratifying. We hear from various quarters that our work can serve as the best understanding - if not in the present but any minute now because of Moore's law - of everything from biology to the economy to aesthetics, child-rearing, sex, you name it. I have found myself being critical of what I view as this overuse as the computational metaphor. My initial motivation was because I thought there was naive and poorly constructed philosophy at work. It's as if these people had never read philosophy at all and there was no sense of epistemological or other problems."

JARON LANIER, a computer scientist and musician, is best known for his work in virtual reality. He is the lead scientist for the National Tele-Immersion Initiative, a consortium of universities studying the implications and applications of next-generation Internet technologies.

[Click here for Jaron Lanier's Edge Bio page] 


 

THE CENTRAL METAPHOR OF EVERYTHING?

Topic: 

  • TECHNOLOGY
http://vimeo.com/79412777

"One of the striking things about being a computer scientist in this age is that all sorts of other people are happy to tell us that what we do is the central metaphor of everything, which is very ego gratifying. We hear from various quarters that our work can serve as the best understanding - if not in the present but any minute now because of Moore's law - of everything from biology to the economy to aesthetics, child-rearing, sex, you name it. I have found myself being critical of what I view as this overuse as the computational metaphor.

SOFTWARE, PROPERTY & HUMAN CIVILIZATION

Topic: 

  • TECHNOLOGY
http://vimeo.com/79412964

"It seems to me that what we're seeing in the software area, and this is the scary part for human society, is the beginning of a kind of dispossession. People are talking about this as dispossession that only comes from piracy, like Napster and Gnutella where the rights of artists are being violated by people sharing their work. But there's another kind of dispossession, which is the inability to actually buy a product.

SOFTWARE, PROPERTY & HUMAN CIVILIZATION

[12.2.01]

It seems to me that what we're seeing in the software area, and this is the scary part for human society, is the beginning of a kind of dispossession. People are talking about this as dispossession that only comes from piracy, like Napster and Gnutella where the rights of artists are being violated by people sharing their work. But there's another kind of dispossession, which is the inability to actually buy a product. The idea is here: you couldn't buy this piece of software, you could only license it on a day by day, month by month, year by year basis; As this idea spreads from software to music, films, books, human civilization based on property fundamentally changes.

 

JORDAN POLLACK is a computer science and complex systems professor at Brandeis University. His laboratory's work on AI, Artificial Life, Neural Networks, Evolution, Dynamical Systems, Games, Robotics, Machine Learning, and Educational Technology has been reported on by the New York Times, Time, Science, NPR, Slashdot.org and many other media sources worldwide.

[Click here for Jordan Pollack's Edge Bio page] 

ONE HALF OF AN ARGUMENT A Response to Jaron Lanier's ONE HALF A MANIFESTO and POSTSCRIPT REGARDING RAY KURZWEIL

[7.29.01]

Click Here for Ray Kurtzweil's Bio Page

RAY KURZWEIL: ONE HALF OF AN ARGUMENT 

In Jaron Lanier's Postscript, which he wrote after he and I spoke in succession at a technology event, Lanier points out that we agree on many things, which indeed we do. So I'll start in that vein as well. First of all, I share the world's esteem for Jaron's pioneering work in virtual reality, including his innovative contemporary work on the "Teleimmersion" initiative, and, of course, in coining the term "virtual reality." I probably have higher regard for virtual reality than Jaron does, but that comes back to our distinct views of the future.

IS LIFE ANALOG OR DIGITAL?

[3.13.01]

Silicon-based life and dust-based life are fiction and not fact. I use them as examples to illustrate an abstract argument. The examples are taken from science-fiction but the abstract argument is rigorous science. The abstract concepts are valid, whether or not the examples are real. The concepts are digital-life and analog-life. The concepts are based on a broad definition of life. For the purposes of this discussion, life is defined as a material system that can acquire, store, process, and use information to organize its activities. In this broad view, the essence of life is information, but information is not synonymous with life. To be alive, a system must not only hold information but process and use it. It is the active use of information, and not the passive storage, that constitutes life.

Is Life Analog or Digital?
Question for Edge discussion group from Freeman Dyson 

FREEMAN DYSON is professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton. His professional interests are in mathematics and astronomy. Among his many books are Disturbing The Universe, Infinite In All Directions Origins Of Life, From Eros To Gaia, Imagined Worlds, and The Sun, The Genome, And The Internet.

Click here for Freeman Dyson's Edge Bio page.

THE REALITY CLUB George Dyson, Cliff Pickover, Joseph Traub, Jaron Lanier, Stewart Brand, William H. Calvin, Marvin Minsky, Charles Simonyi, Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, Lee Smolin, Philip W. Anderson, Marc D. Hauser, Jordan B. Pollack, Nicholas Humphrey, Steve Grand, W. Daniel Hillis, Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Jaron Lanier, John Baez, Terry Sejnowski

Response to the responders from Freeman Dyson


IS LIFE ANALOG OR DIGITAL?

Topic: 

  • TECHNOLOGY
http://vimeo.com/79416113

Silicon-based life and dust-based life are fiction and not fact. I use them as examples to illustrate an abstract argument. The examples are taken from science-fiction but the abstract argument is rigorous science. The abstract concepts are valid, whether or not the examples are real. The concepts are digital-life and analog-life. The concepts are based on a broad definition of life. For the purposes of this discussion, life is defined as a material system that can acquire, store, process, and use information to organize its activities.

NATURAL BORN CYBORGS?

[12.28.00]

Introduction

"As our worlds become smarter, and get to know us better and better," writes cognitive scientist Andy Clark, "it becomes harder and harder to say where the world stops and the person begins."

Clark's examines the"potent, portable machinery linking the user to an increasingly responsive World Wide Web," as well as "the gradual smartening-up and interconnection of the many everyday objects which populate our homes and offices." But his interest is not primarily in new technology. "Rather," he writes, "it is to talk about us, about our sense of self, and about the nature of the human mind. The point is not to guess at what we might soon become, but to better appreciate what we already are: creatures whose minds are special precisely because they are tailor-made to mix and match neural, bodily and technological ploys."

According to Clark, we have to give up the prejudice "that whatever matters about mind must depend solely on what goes on inside the biological skin-bag, inside the ancient fortress of skin and skull." He presents cognitive technologies as "deep and integral parts of the problem-solving systems that constitute human intelligence. They are best seen as proper parts of the computational apparatus that constitutes our minds."

– JB

GOLDSMITH VS. ZIMMERMAN

[11.22.00]

For your entertainment, here is a piece by George Dyson. It shows the way to deal equitably with the situation in Florida. It was written three years ago and it is being published this week in the Bellingham Herald and in theFrankfurter Algemeine Zeitung. You might consider it an addendum to Danny Hillis's piece in the news-letter about "How Democracy Works". It describes a real case verifying Hillis's theory of democracy. Implications for biology, engineering, and physics are enormous.

ONE HALF A MANIFESTO

[11.10.00]

"For the last twenty years, I have found myself on the inside of a revolution, but on the outside of its resplendent dogma. Now that the revolution has not only hit the mainstream, but bludgeoned it into submission by taking over the economy, it's probably time for me to cry out my dissent more loudly than I have before."

Introduction

Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in virtual reality, musician, and currently the lead scientist for the National Tele-Immersion Initiative, worries about the future of human culture more than the gadgets. In his "Half a Manifesto" he takes on those he terms the "cybernetic totalists" who do not seem "to not have been educated in the tradition of scientific skepticism. I understand why they are intoxicated. There IS a compelling simple logic behind their thinking and elegance in thought is infectious."

"There is a real chance that evolutionary psychology, artificial intelligence, Moore's Law fetishizing, and the rest of the package, will catch on in a big way, as big as Freud or Marx did in their times. Or bigger, since these ideas might end up essentially built into the software that runs our society and our lives. If that happens, the ideology of cybernetic totalist intellectuals will be amplified from novelty into a force that could cause suffering for millions of people.

"The greatest crime of Marxism wasn't simply that much of what it claimed was false, but that it claimed to be the sole and utterly complete path to understanding life and reality. Cybernetic eschatology shares with some of history's worst ideologies a doctrine of historical predestination. There is nothing more gray, stultifying, or dreary than a life lived inside the confines of a theory. Let us hope that the cybernetic totalists learn humility before their day in the sun arrives."

Read on.....

—John Brockman

JARON LANIER, a computer scientist and musician, is a pioneer of virtual reality, and founder and former CEO of VPL.

Jaron Lanier's Edge Bio Page

Reality Club — Part I: George Dyson, Freeman Dyson. Cliff Barney, Bruce Sterling, Rod Brooks, Henry Warwick, Kevin Kelly, Margaret Wertheim, John Baez, Lee Smolin, Stewart Brand, Rod Brooks, Lee Smolin, Daniel C. Dennett, Philip W. Anderson.

Reality Club — Part II: Jaron Lanier responds; Lanier's postscript on Ray Kurtzweil

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