[Humanist] 29.155 machines, machines everywhere
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Jul 10 23:33:27 CEST 2015
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 155.
Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
Date: Fri, 10 Jul 2015 09:26:57 +1000
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
John Naughton has reminded me of the Foreword to Seymour Pappert's
Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas (1980). For thinking
about machines and the meaning they have for us it is, I think, an
essential reading. Thanks to the Lifelong Kindergarten at MIT, the
Foreword itself may be found at
https://llk.media.mit.edu/courses/readings/gears-v1.pdf. (The seasoned
URL-choppers among us will likely discover several other items of
interest at https://llk.media.mit.edu/courses/readings/.) Pappert's whole
book, though poorly formatted, may be found at
Asking how children learn rather than what scholars want (i.e.
know that they want) seems to me a far superior starting point.
Neurological plasticity and the odd extraordinary experience
along the line give me hope that not only children and the
professional lives of developmental psychologists will benefit.
The phenomenon of "reflected analogy" that Tim Smithers has
pointed to I prefer to think of as co-evolutionary development,
with no implication of progress, just a 'rolling out'. Still a
problem remains with that term, since it suggests a rolling
out of what's already there to be rolled out. Is it? Perhaps.
Ian Hacking's term "looping effects" (in Rewriting the Soul)
avoids that problem but carries the implication of closed
circularity. In any case technological history provides
abundant evidence that we refashion ourselves from our
inventions, as McLuhan also noted somewhere. I prefer
to think of this as just what happens with no moral
judgment of the process -- as long as we remain self-
aware, and so able to step back and look critically,
speculatively at what we're doing. Let us say we are
*as if* composed of a gazillion biological nanobots.
What follows from that? Why are we thinking in this way?
In the moment before as-if becomes is, there's a chance
for some insight.
Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
Group, University of Western Sydney
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