[Humanist] 30.178 social media vs truth; computer theology

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Jul 16 09:15:27 CEST 2016


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 178.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Dino Buzzetti <dino.buzzetti at gmail.com>                   (24)
        Subject: Re:  30.176 : social media vs the truth

  [2]   From:    "Charles M. Ess" <c.m.ess at media.uio.no>                   (95)
        Subject: Re:  30.173 computer theology


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2016 10:57:37 +0200
        From: Dino Buzzetti <dino.buzzetti at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  30.176 : social media vs the truth


On 15 July 2016 at 07:02, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>
> Katharine Viner, "How technology disrupted the truth"
> The Guardian, 12 July 2016
>>
​
That'​s a truth !  but didn't I learn about it through a
"social medium" ? — that's what "Humanist" is, after
all...  A technological "liar paradox" ?

Best,           -dino buzzetti

-- 
Dino Buzzetti                                          formerly
Department of Philosophy     University of Bologna
​                                ​
                             currently
Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII
​
via san Vitale, 114                   I-40125 Bologna BO
e-mail:  dino.buzzetti(at)gmail.com
             buzzetti(at)fscire.it
web: http://web.dfc.unibo.it/buzzetti/
http://www.fscire.it/it/home/chi-siamo/ricercatori/buzzetti/



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2016 21:05:43 +0200
        From: "Charles M. Ess" <c.m.ess at media.uio.no>
        Subject: Re:  30.173 computer theology
        In-Reply-To: <20160715045735.340D57B58 at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Willard, Tim, and colleagues,

Tickled to see the reference to the A.C. Clarke story - one I vividly
recall. But would also add here what I'm not sure I've seen articulated in
this thread so far?  If I've missed something, apologies.

Computation has been affiliated with the sacred since its origins, beginning
with Babylonian and Egyptian mathematics.  In these directions, the sky-disk
of Nebra (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebra_sky_disk>), if it can be
counted as a computational device (I think it can), embodies the
inextricable interconnection between calculation and the universe understood
as a sacred order.  (Ditto for the Antikythera mechanism.)

This is made more secular in some way by the Pythagoreans - but the
Pythagorean belief that mathematics, and thus computation, articulates a
fundamental order in nature, and thereby furthers a "religious" interest in
seeking to better attune ourselves to that order as an ultimate form of
"salvation" runs throughout our cultural, intellectual, and scientific
histories.

For example, Kepler's neo-Pythagorean search for the mathematical ratios of
the planetary orbits that then fulfilled the ancient Pythagorean dream of
actually hearing (an analogue of) the music of the spheres. Kepler's music
was too difficult for human musicians to perform - nicely enough, it was
realized using computers and synthesizers in the late 1970s, e.g., by Laurie
Siegel (<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp1R6TMvWTA>) and included in the
Voyager probe.

Still more directly, Leibniz was intrigued by the possibility of automating
calculation, developing binary along the way (inspired in turn by the I
Ching, which likewise takes number as an articulation of the sacred, however
much the latter term has to be qualified in an ancient Chinese context) -
again in service to the (neo-)Pythagorean project of understanding an
ultimately sacred order.

This interweaving between calculation and the sacred becomes sometimes
radically disconnected in Enlightenment taxonomies that seek to separate
"religion" from everything else. Whatever the advantages of what amounts to
a resulting academic specialization, this disentangling threatens us with
anachronism when we seek to understand earlier "religion" as well as the
roles of calculation.

But while there are plenty of contemporary understandings of computation as
a strictly secular business (in every sense of the word) - there are also
contemporary philosophers of information, most notably Luciano Floridi, who
explicitly continue the thread from such ancients as the Pythagoreans and
Plato, through Leibniz and Spinoza: very briefly and very roughly, so far as
we understand the cosmos in terms of computable information, it is a cosmos
whose default normative setting (my terms) is a basic affirmation of its
goodness and value.

If this sketch is anywhere close to correct - from a historical perspective
then, it is the separation between computing and theology that is the
anomaly, not their entanglement.

Hope this is of some interest and help

cheers,
charles ess
--
Professor in Media Studies
Department of Media and Communication
University of Oslo
http://www.hf.uio.no/imk/english/people/aca/charlees/index.html

Editor, The Journal of Media Innovations
<https://www.journals.uio.no/index.php/TJMI/>

Postboks 1093
Blindern 0317
Oslo, Norway
c.m.ess at media.uio.no

On 15/07/16 06:57, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 173.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>         Date: Thu, 14 Jul 2016 12:17:45 +0200
>         From: Tim Smithers <tim.smithers at cantab.net>
>         Subject: Re:  30.170 computer theology
>         In-Reply-To: <20160714090405.24CF16D92 at digitalhumanities.org>
>
>
> Dear Willard,
>
> And as Arthur C Clarke told us, in his 1953 short story, "The
> nine billion names of God," computers mattered to those who
> study God.  (Are the truths in fiction different from the
> truths in religious texts?)
>
> This is easily one of my favourite SciFi stories.  It's well
> worth a read, I think.  It's an early work in the Digital
> Humanities, perhaps?  It too is about "Where causality stops,
> ecstasy begins," sort of.
>
> It can be found here
>
>   http://letras.cabaladada.org/letras/nine_billion_names.pdf ,
>
> amongst other places.
>
> Best regards,
>
> Tim





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