[Humanist] 30.429 computing and reasoning?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Oct 21 08:52:54 CEST 2016

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 429.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 21 Oct 2016 07:44:10 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: computing and reasoning

Two books touch on an interesting question, namely the relationship 
between digital computing and human reasoning:

Alex Abella, Soldiers of Reason: The RAND Corporation and the Rise of 
the American Empire. Orlando FL: Harcourt, 2008.

Paul Erickson et al., How Reason Almost Lost its Mind: The Strange 
Career of Cold War Rationality. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press, 

I struggle to articulate what makes them stand out. Both centre on the 
period of the Cold War, both orbit what went on at RAND, but that's not 
it (for me). The closest I can get at the moment is the intensity in 
extremis of the Cold War (thermonuclear annihilation) of the questioning 
of reason itself shaped by theories and implementations for digital 
computing. We ask, and sometimes fear the answer, is true artificial 
intelligence possible? These books help to see that this is the wrong 
question, that a better one is, what is reason? And of course how in 
the milieu of digital machines are we now reshaping it?

Apologies for the fumbling. Any enlightening thoughts?


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney

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