Search results for "cybernetics "

Eliminate!

Author: joe

Wednesday, 01 February, 2012 - 23:22

The fear lies in the elimination of meaning. There are eliminitavists out there. They stalk the land like stilt-walkers crossing fens, hunting, herding and eradicating fauna, extirpating significance, annihilating secrets, exterminating superstitions, banishing all magic, colour and purpose.

These terrorists are bent on banishing the inner world. So, the shaking hand is hormonal - an cortisone signal that mobilises a mammal response, while the living awareness of the hurt is nothing more than a ghost. The blush is merely information in a closed system - the system that catches pheromones and peacocks into a framework of fertility messages and reproductive imperatives, whose illusory reflections appear to take the form of ardour or devotion. The ongoing flourishing of life itself, with its the menagerie of species and phyla, is no more than the medium of information - a quaternary code whose successful transmission is sufficient cause. This emptied world is not just one that has been hollowed out - it has been flattened, expressed and desiccated.

The eliminativists have it the wrong way round, though. The cybernetic manoeuvre of putting humans and machines onto the same ontological plane works both ways: just as the human becomes a servo-mechanism, so the machine becomes an aesthetic organism. The same perceptive life that constitutes the world of human meaning is at work in the mechanical operations of detection and processing, judging and adjusting. The machine world is awash with sensation, interaction and appreciation. The adrenaline feeling in the stomach and the voltage generated in a photovoltaic cell; the tingle of excitement and the charge in an electrostatic field; the whole emotional-somatic range of how our senses are stimulated, how our heartbeat increases, our hackles raise, our toes curl or our eyes water - and the racing current, the humming circuit, the scattered electrons or the negative charge.

Categories: eliminativism, cybernetics, meaning, aesthetics,
Comments: 1

Inner and Outer

Author: joe

Wednesday, 01 February, 2012 - 15:04

The quantified self is a kind of nightmare. The self is not just what can be measured, transcribed and translated onto other substrates - tables, graphs, algorithms and numbers. Surely we are more than what can be summarised about us - our movements or our galvanic skin response; our imaged neuronal activity or our observable behaviour? Even were there a method for recording every outward event, each unit of information emitted from the system, it would surely be nothing more than the shell of a life, rather than the life itself? The sloughed skin rather than the being who cast it off? 'My inner world cannot be accounted for', objects the inner voice.

What is the character of the fear that haunts the rationalisation of human beings? What is the resistance to scientific accounts of human action - the behaviourist category itself, which casts the individual as a set of instinctual responses which can be conditioned; or the cybernetic vision of the human as servo-mechanism; the sociobiological thought which see cultures as mere derivatives of hunter-gatherer origins; the neurological system which turns our autonomy into something that emerges from statistical phenomena; the cosmological view which traces every event back to an origin which plays out deterministically according to unchanging laws; or the materialist explanation of the world as the extended evolution of the behaviour of atoms and particles?

In a conversation, two people speak past each other: the one is monosyllabic and reluctant, elsewhere; the other is insistent, 'listen to me, I'm trying to talk to you', unrelenting. The conversation is broken, it malfunctions, since communication is fraught and meanings are cut off. The reluctant, distracted absentee conversationalist is hurting, the injuries flood into her consciousness washing out all other intentions. The pain blushes in the solar plexus and shakes in the fingers. It stiffens in the neck. The voice of the other speaker is intermittent and confusing, it feels like an insect in the air that darts in and then away, and with each invasion it brings a sensation of being pushed and stirred, knocked back and forth.

The one talking barely notices the silent one's slight shiver, or the darkened brow. The lack of response is infuriating. With each occasion that the expected acknowledging nods and murmurs do not come, a creeping sense of futility is drowned by a exploding heat below and behind each ear. The voice starts to be uncontrollable, as the mid-point of every spoken breath becomes raised and petulant. 'I am uncared for, why do you not care?' The silent response is the click of a ratchet each time it intervenes where the contact should occur, and each winding moment is a slip further down the abyss, a further strain on the line attaching the voice to the world, until the snap happens, the teeth whirr back and the voice shouts incoherently 'LISTEN TO ME'.

Categories: cybernetics, feedback, information, measurement, inner experience,
Comments: 0

Cracked actor

Author: joe

Thursday, 28 October, 2010 - 22:31

- on the pretence of being.

"... to the biologist the brain is not a thinking machine, it is an acting machine; it gets information and then does something about it" ... The cyberneticians then, conceived of the brain as an immediately embodied organ, intrinsically tied into bodily performances ... the cybernetic brain was not representational but performative ...
 
One might imagine the representational brain to be immediately available for inspection. Formal education largely amounts to acquiring, manipulating and being examined on representational knowledge. Such activities are very familiar to us. But the performative brain remains opaque and mysterious - who knows what a performative brain can do?
 
The Cybernetic Brain by Andrew Pickering

Performing, not representing; acting, not thinking; opaque and mysterious, not immediately available. The being of things like brains, rather than the inward reflections of them. Pushing open the productive (and mournful) gap between language and reality, between thought and world.

I'm intrigued by the strange mirrors in these dissections of world and image. The hard stuff of the world is real, while the thoughts and words which grope towards representing it are shadowlike and ghostly; and yet faced with the shortcomings of the image, the figures that offer themselves are synonyms for artifice and pretending. It's as though we are unable to even build a language that can cope with the thinging of things without them requiring some sort of author, blueprint or script.

What is it to act? To be someone with two identities, split - the visible, performed, conjured, and the hidden, original, obscured. The performed need not be put on like a mask, but is perhaps revealed, found, uncovered from within. Far from being dead behind the eyes, the actor is in fact more authentic, being skilled in calling forth the facets of self that fulfil the needs of the performance.

Categories: cybernetics, Andrew Pickering, knowledge, representation, performance, acting, pretence,
Comments: 0