[Humanist] 24.126 measuring up

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Jun 19 08:55:17 CEST 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 126.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2010 11:48:27 -0700
        From: Jascha Kessler <urim1 at verizon.net>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.121 measuring up?
        In-Reply-To: <20100617084723.BF3D859A3D at woodward.joyent.us>

*** Attachments:

Dear Willard,

I have always digressed when the opportunity arose while lecturing to remark
to my audience of Homo sapiens — classroom, seminar, public — that *Homo
Faber*, an casual evolutionary category, is distinguished by first, clothing
itself, and second of course tools after fire managemen. Homo
prosthesiensis, since we arrive incapable of survival at birth and for the
first year and more, say three? We would not be had we not even the most
elementary of prostheses.  Whether to replace or augment, as in trepanning
amongst Neanderthals?
Speaking of Neandethals, the FT recently published a letter of mine that may
be entertaining.  I attach it to this email.
Jascha Kessler

On Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 1:47 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 121.
>         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>        Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2010 08:35:14 +0100
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: measuring up
> For the purpose of argument let me make a distinction between
> *prosthesis* (OED: "The replacement of defective or absent parts of the
> body by artificial substitutes") and *augmentation* ("making greater, or
> adding to; extension, enlargement"), with obvious reference to Douglas
> Engelbart. These two blur into each other, as we see particularly when
> the former is used to denote extension of normal capacities. Let's
> assume also that the norm hiding in this distinction is unproblematic
> and indicates what is "normal", as we say, i.e. average.
> So, a couple of questions.
> (1) Can we agree that in the development of our digital tools and
> methods our aim is augmentation rather than prosthesis? A prosthetic
> tool would not just be e.g. a text-to-speech or speech-to-text
> synthesizer designed for someone who cannot produce the one but can the
> other, but also, say, a diary reminder for the busy person who cannot
> remember where he or she has to go when. An augmenting tool would be
> something that allows e.g. all literature in a particular language, or
> in several languages, to be searched for a particular syntactic
> or semantic pattern.
> (2) If augmentation is our goal, then how in the various areas of our
> activity do we measure up, and what can we learn from our successes and
> our failures? And beyond those, what can we learn from our dreams of an
> augmented human?
> In the gym this morning, I found myself (as one does) gazing in
> endorphinic intoxication (NOT the right word, but you get the idea) at
> some muscle-building machines and wondering where they fit into the
> continuum from prosthesis to augmentation. I don't think this is a
> simple question, though I admit that as I type the endorphins are still
> doing their marvellous work.
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
> King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
> Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
> Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.
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Jascha Kessler
Professor of English & Modern Literature, UCLA
Telephone/Facsimile: 310.393.4648

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