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FleshFactor: Chaos in the Big House



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Chaos in the Big House

This artificial brain business has me wondering. Whose brain might these
mad scientists use as a model? Would this make a difference? If it was
going to be a 'human' brain, who would look after it through all those
years of growing up? How would they model infancy, youth, grumpy old age?
To build a perfect model of the human brain, wouldn't the builders have to
know what a perfect human brain was? And to know this, wouldn't they have
to be perfect? And if they were perfect, why would they need to build such
a brain in the first place? To replace pigeons on the assembly line? I
guess the best we will do is a 'sort-of' human brain. 

The same goes for human cloning. Imagine some evil genius cloning a race
of superhuman warriors or 9 foot tall basketball players. By the time they
grew up, they might all decide that basket-weaving was more interesting
than fighting or dribbling. And, of course, the evil genius would be much,
much older too. 

The same goes for deconstruction. When someone claims to 'deconstruct' a
novel or idea or behaviour, aren't they implying that they know exactly
what the 'construction' is?

How can we escape the contradictions? 

On the one hand, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So there
is more to the 'human' brain than the mass of whatever electrical and
chemical goo is in the human head. 

For one thing, it has a history. Do you think that if that old movie
cliche of the human/monster absorbing all the world's knowledge through
some sort of weird helmet were true, the poor creature would know
anything? Other than media history? Imagine having total recall of
everything ever written in People magazine or the Sun or the Encyclopaedia
Brittanica. So lived-experience makes everyone sufficiently different (the
vast conceptual and experiential differences between cultures and social
classes aside) to ensure that a mediated chaos rules.

On the other hand, the parts make up a rather perfect whole. From Mir or
the Mars rover, the earth is just a big ball in the blackness. Pure,
Pythagorean order. 

To add to the mess, perception and consciousness as a whole are subject to
natural, environmental forces. Try as we might, as Derek Robinson just
suggested, our efforts at chaos fall into predictable patterns. Even
anarchists have parties. 

So the perception of chaos and order is partly a question of scale. 

Given this, we can never model a perfect artificial human brain. We are
the wrong size beings, too various, too close to it all. Either someone as
big as the earth, or as small as a microbe, is going to have to do it.


Brian Leigh Molyneaux, July 13, 1997.

<moly@sunflowr.usd.edu>


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