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FleshFactor: Re: re: what is a machine?



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A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"
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Dennett and the Machinic phylum:

     I find alot of this debate about humans as machines pretty funny. 
Maybe what we need is a new vocabulary to describe the biomorphic
apparatuses we use to construct our perception of the world around us. Why
is it that Euro-centric culture always seems to get bogged down in stuff
like this. The only two philosophers of the last century or so that have
been able get past all this stuff are Deleuze and Guattari, or I know this
might sound a little outre, but, it kind of fits: Lyn Margulis, or of
course, Lovelock. Why not describe this stuff as interrelated systems that
act as co-dependent biological structures? Kind of like the Judaic myth of
the Golem of Prague (summoned by the collective prayers of the people,
sounds like well written code to me), rather than the clockwork diva of
"Metropolis"? Machines have such an industrial age connotation, a kind of
Charles Babbage meets Fred Flintstone kind of vibe. Or how about checking
out Manuel Delanda's stuff, "War in the Age of Intelligent Machines." I
don't know about you guys, but if we continue on this kind of vein, we are
definitely looking at life, umm, through a a scanner, darkly.

     One of the more interesting Japanese philosophers writing on similar
topics as Dennett, Kojin Karatani, writes in his excellent book
"Architecture as Metaphor: Language, Number, Money", a critique of Martin
Heidegger's essay, "The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking".
Karatani takes Heidegger to task for the adage in "The End of
Philosophy..." that "no prophecy is necessary to recognize that the
sciences now establishing themselves will soon be determined and steered
by the new fundamental science which is called cybernetics...This science
corresponds to the determination of man as an acting social being. For it
is the theory of the steering of the possible planning and arrangement of
human labor. Cybernetics tranforms language into an exchange of news. The
arts become regulated-regulating instruments of information...The
development of philosophy into the independendent sciences which, however
interdependently communicate among themselves ever more markedly, is the
legitimate completion of philosophy. Philosophy is ending in the present
age." For Karatani, humans have always acted interdependent agents in
systems: this does not approximate a machine (which itself is a crude
approximation of an abstracted human beings labor). Karatani's critique of
Heidegger goes a little something like this: "cybernetics functions as a
nullifier of traditional dichotomies such as material/life and
human/animal by reconstructing everything as difference/information; it is
the horizon where "spirit" and information can no longer play their
privileged a priori roles.  As Heidegger asserted, philosophy grounded in
such values "is ending in the present age." 

     All of this kind of goes to say that a philosophy based on the same
tenets that de la Mettrie used a couple of centuries ago, is both boring
and pretty much out of date. I respect much of what Dennett says, but I
gotta ask: has he ever heard of Grand Master Flash's little adage: "you
dip, dive, and socialize/we're trying to make you realize/that we are
qualified, to rectify/that burning desire to boogie"? When are you guys
going to interview William J. Mitchell or Marvin Minsky? Or maybe James
Lovelock or Lyn Margulis? To me the notion of the machine as a rigid
system of interacting parts doesn't have the same immediate sense of
intuitive, dynamic, and ever changing flow that the examples biology has
to offer do.


Paul D. Miller, A.K.A. Dj Spooky That Subliminal Kid

anansi@interport.net

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