FleshFactor FleshFactor


FleshFactor: the mind-centred electronic world...

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

Guenther Lametschwandtner wrote:

>Why do we want to create a machine that is able to think as we do?
>I have the feeling, this is just a very elusive way to express spiritual
>desires for immortality and transcendence. The sole idea of a human way of
>thinking without a human body denies the "fleshfactor" and suggests at the
>same time that there may be some kind of spirit/soul independent of its
>hardware/body.  So my answer would be: No, we won't be able to construct
>such a machine without simultaneously having to imitate the human body. 

Yes. An interesting feature of this fleshfactor discourse is the extent to
which it has focused on rational elements - not surprising, as this
electronic world seems so mind-centred (whether your vision is of a global
Mind or a surfer's paradise without the salt and sand).

And yet, whatever the nature of the discourse, we are all immersed in
specific, dynamic environmental situations which mediate that rationality
and so bring it down to earth. We confront, encounter, transact, negotiate
this electronic environment in both physical (material) and rational
(ideological) ways. And we bring to it consciousness (a vague
generalization here) derived from our worldly experience. A brain in a
jar, even if it lives and gives orders (usually evil ones -- pick your
science fiction movie) is not a human being, nor an animal. As long as we
are human, we are compelled to be outsiders.

I was struck by this problem just last night while watching a Discovery
programme on the self-styled 'cyborgs' -- students at MIT. Obviously their
walking around with wearcams and monitors in front of one eye and
hand-held input devices will lead to some very exciting developments in
computer technology in the future (particularly in terms of surveillance),
but they were still human beings wearing funny things on their heads --
even if they could (as they demonstrated) enable us to watch one of them
order a burrito (and take our order, too). 

The cyborgs answer to such criticism (obviously made on the same level as
that which greeted the horseless carriage) was that people reacted the
same way to Walkmans.

Did they sense the irony in that observation? We can create all sorts of
layers of machine-generated information between body and environment,
often to good effect. Whether it's sound, or image, or perfume, however,
we are still stuck in the ceaseless negotiation of a speechless, mindless
world. This fundamental activity has, therefore, as much to do with our
awareness, with our humanness, as anything we can imagine.

Brian Molyneaux    <moly@sunflowr.usd.edu>

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