[Humanist] 29.348 ecstasies of sabotage from 1961

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Oct 3 08:14:11 CEST 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 348.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 2 Oct 2015 19:51:18 -0400 (EDT)
        From: lachance at chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: 1961 poem on Artificial Intelligence
        In-Reply-To: <20151002084315.322606A20 at digitalhumanities.org>


In the fall in Toronto there are a number of book sales where one can come
across gems that one had always wanted to read but failed to pick up in
some trip to the library. One such volume came my way the other day:
Adrienne Rich. <i>Snapshots of A Daughter-in-law</i> and what attracted my
attention was a poem entitled “Artificial Intelligence”. I had been
leafing from the back section and realized that the Notes on the Poems for
this particular poem devoted considerable space to quoting from Herbert
Simon. And so on to the 1961 poem. The first verse invites readers to
imagine contrasting behaviours following a game of chess.

Over the chessboard now,
Your Artificiality concludes
a final check; rests; broods —
          no — sorts and stacks a file of memories,
while I
concede the victory, bow,
and slouch among my free associations.

And so on until the final stanza

Still, when
they make you write your poems, later on,
whoÂ’d envy you, force-fed
on all those variorum
editions of our primitive endeavours,
those frozen pemmican language-rations
theyÂ’ll cram you with? denied
our luxury of nausea, you
forget nothing, have no dreams.

And at this remote perspective, can we imagine an artificial intelligence
roaming the bookstalls and remembering intentions that had been forgotten
and reconnecting with texts that had been but glimmers on the attention


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