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FleshFactor: Distributed Wisdom

A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"


Much of the FleshFactor dialogue has a touch of primitive mysticism about
it. The greatest hub-bub centers around the metaphor of THE HUMUNCULUS, as

"Gee whiz, let's make a Golem! Let's make a creature which is as smart as
our own little white suburban butts!"

And this is followed by a lot of shop-talk about how to concentrate all
this prep-school sentience into a single gleaming package. To paraphrase
Curt Cobain, it smells like teen specialists. Even Marvin Minsky, in
Society of Mind, has warned against the singular "soul" approach to AI.
It's really quite marvelous to watch the flow of dialogue as one earnest
individual after another attempts to open up the discussion to consider
wider moral, social, and evolutionary issues, only to have the
humunculus-makers plod forward, ignoring the more abstract considerations
of the non-specialists. Yet there is much technical significance to what
the doubters and generalists have to offer. Technicians, ignore these
abstractions at your peril! Get thee to Thomas Paine, Virginia Woolf,
Neitsche, and Gibson.


Thousands of years of war, cruelty, and bad sex have shown our species to
require far more than a set of self-appointed priests and dictators to
induce intelligence and wisdom into the world. There are no ideal people
among us. In isolation there is no intelligence at all. Mind has ALWAYS
been a distributed phenomenon. The people we have deemed saints and
geniuses emerged out of a context in which their talents were nurtured, and
their charms amplified. And one generation's genius may be another's bigot.
There are no sufficient, enduring models of being worth emulating.
Circumstances have forced us to evolve sets of social and technological
algorithms (problem-solving procedures) which help to shake some
perspective into our limited individual outlooks. Democracy, trial by jury,
representative government, public schools, the free press, telephones, even
something as simple as a handshake, have all helped to turn society into a
more graceful, less violent, information processing system. We may have
individual intelligence, but our WISDOM is externalized in a social, and
environmental process. We arrive at decisions through interaction with the
environment. We even use the environment as a repository for our memories
and as an ordering system for our daily affairs. Consider these other
externalized mind-systems:

* In North Africa certain tribal councils practice a method of debate in
which each participant's sentences and thoughts are never completed. To
complete a thought is considered ill-mannered. With this simple procedure
an entire group essay is constructed.

* The Dogun in West Africa conduct their council meetings in low-ceilinged
structures forcing the entire congregation to squat. Outright fist-fights
are impossible, forcing participants back on a more civilized battle of

* Quaker Meetings are usually conducted without ministers. The worshippers
sit in a square facing a central void. The ritual is reduced to a bare
minimum: sit in silence, all attenders are welcome to speak briefly on any
heartfelt subject, and allow for a few minutes of silence between speakers.
Emergent reverence is the goal.

* Here in Northern Ireland we are witnessing the use of two age-old social
algorithms, the Ceasefire, and the Peace Talk. I had the honor of
contributing Bionic Codes to a "Faele" (or festival) last night, another
social algorithm, which celebrated the right of the Irish for a substantive
presence in the culture of Northern Ireland.

* The web, chat-rooms, muds, moos, and list-servs like this one allow for a
variety of interesting emergent intelligence.

* Other communicative cultural technologies abound: round tables, public
squares, teapots, the peace symbol, Reggae music, and the word "love."


So any talk about emulating intelligence, no matter which state of matter
it exploits (solid, liquid, gas, or plasma), is incomplete without
reference to the wisdom inherent in our externalized thinking systems.
Furthermore, it is more likely that small, semi-intelligent modules will be
built over the web using Java and other "push" technologies, which will
mix, compete, and collaborate (swirl), thus producing a FIELD of
intelligence systems. The wisdom shall emerge out of the swirl with no
dictators, curators, grant committees, or corporations in control.
Furthermore, these modules will not survive without a deep connection, not
only with internet protocol, but with social and cultural protocol.

The problem with the shop-talk of amateur AI specialists, is the lack of
recognition that what they are discussing is not merely technical--but
social, cultural, political, and poetic. Limiting the discussion, while
seemingly practical on professional grounds, only limits the definition of
intelligence itself. 

-Ebon Fisher


                Ebon Fisher

WEBSITE:        http://www.users.interport.net/~outpost/ebon.html
BIONIC CODEX:   http://www.echonyc.com/~sandbox/codes/index.html

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