Miranda Trimmier, “Quantum Drift”.
In recent discussion of some apps which have been developed to allow visitors to engage with historical sites, I encountered some resistance from some people who make the argument that this somehow ‘cheapens’ the experience. The argument goes that in having a cultural experience, however broadly this may be understood, there needs to be something approaching a one to one correspondence. Cultural artefact X plus individual Y combine to create authentic experience Z. This reminds me of the analysis offered by Susan Sontag in On Photography. Read More
“For some, no doubt it is less comforting to think of rural Bangladeshis using cell phones than to imagine them sharing the experiences of the day at the hearth with their families. But the fact that the rural communities in developing nations can and do use cell technology brings them just that much closer to their “developed” counterparts. Not in the sense of having more technology at their disposal, but in the sense of thinking about communicating with people in similar ways, of being accustomed to maintaining relationships over distances, of acting on one’s desire to talk at the moment one has it, of possessing the confidence and the technology to project one’s needs and desires towards disembodied authorities and remote friends when one needs to.”
“The pursuit of authenticity in the attributes of the other constitutes a degraded form of critique. Its fundamental predicate – as convenient for the marketing executive as it is for the travel agent – is that we question and modify our own practices and seek authenticity in those of others.”
William Ray, The Logic of Culture, pp. 175-176, p. 178.
My approach to the philosophy of technology has been via the route of hermeneutics from day one. Within mainstream philosophy, there are established figures such as Heidegger who feature in all of the summaries of the philosophy of technology, yet they does not do much for me. There are the critical theorists such as Marcuse who are also often appealed to, and likewise I am unenthused. I feel I should set out how and why hermeneutics, and Hans Georg Gadamer specifically, set the tone for my engagement with the philosophy of technology and its sub-disciplines. The reason I choose Gadamerian hermeneutics is that it is a philosophy which puts rhetoric in a central position, and technology is a deeply rhetorical field.
Technology is most often described as being connected with science, in that it is technology which exemplifies a scientific principle brought to bear on the world. It is science made practical, science made to serve our human ends. Were this the full story, in all its neutral glory, then turning to Heidegger or Marcuse would not seem quite so problematic to me. If technology was only ever merely “application” then it would invite such interpretation as Heidegger and Marcuse seem to offer. But it is not. There are two ways to demonstrate this, Read More
I do not intend here to get into the arcana of Business Intelligence 2.0 (BI 2.0), because I am not one of its acolytes. That is, I am not trying to sell you anything. What I want to point to is one central problem with the entire notion of Business Intelligence, which is related to other, similar problems with information. In that self-serving white paper from 2002, “Business Intelligence 2.0: Are we there yet?” (pdf link here), Gregory S. Nelson gives what he sees as a speculative projection of where BI 2.0 might take us. In between repeated, and worrying references to Star Trek, he suggests that through BI 2.0, hey-presto
Decisions, facts and context will be developed through “crowdsourcing.” No longer will reports (or how data is structured) be left up to the designer, the environment will evolve as users make the data and derived insights work better through contributions of many.
This can be called the fallacy of absent agency, common to most popular applications of the concept of emergence to society (Nelson misattributes this to evolution rather than emergence), which operates under the assumption that all that takes place in the realm of Web 2.0 happens magically, without the intentionality of human actors being present. Read More
This is from Jay Lanier’s One Half of a Manifesto (which I discovered via Dale Carrico’s Amor Mundi) written about ten years ago. It’s an excellent piece of technoskepticism which encourages us to consider technology (specifically, the writing of software) as it is, rather than lazily to give in to considering analogies with biology as representative of some putative, deeper “truth”. If read more widely, it would be an excellent antidote to the more hysterical fantasies of abstract intelligencers, singularitarians, techno-hucksters, and all those others Carrico refers to as “robo-cultists”.
Darwin created a style of reduction that was based on emergent principles instead of underlying laws (though some recent speculative physics theories can have a Darwinian flavor). There isn’t any evolutionary “force” analogous to, say, electromagnetism. Evolution is a principle that can be discerned as emerging in events, but it cannot be described precisely as a force that directs events. This is a subtle distinction. The story of each photon is the same, in a way that the story of each animal and plant is different. (Of course there are wonderful examples of precise, quantitative statements in Darwinian theory and corresponding experiments, but these don’t take place at anywhere close to the level of human experience, which is whole organisms that have complex behaviors in environments.) “Story” is the operative word. Evolutionary thought has almost always been applied to specific situations through stories. Read More
“Any child of two can indulge in wish fulfillment fantasizing. It’s not a philosophy. It’s not a movement. And the way you Robot Cultists do it makes you a kind of techno-transcendental New Age cult too hype-notized to notice you are functioning as a crowdsourced cheerleading squad for celebrity CEOs and ramped up gizmo consumerism at a time when the world is literally perishing from extractive- industrial- petrochemical- consumer- indebted- corporate- militarism.
The digital revolution is a lie. Cyberspace isn’t a spirit realm. It belches coal smoke. It is accessed on landfill-destined toxic devices made by wretched wage slaves. It abetted financial fraud and theft at every level of society around the world. Its “openness” and its “freedom” turned out to be targeted marketing harassment, panoptic surveillance, and zero comments.
Rather than grasp this catastrophic fraud, you embrace it more ferociously, you hyperbolize cyberspatial deceptions into a more delusive fantasy still, fancying it will be home to a history shattering perfectly parental God-AI delivering you into the digital garden where your “spirit self” can live forever and “be” anything and “have” everything and “know” it all forever.”
The rest at amor mundi.