Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Reply to Lewitzky

The work uses Jozef Lewitzky's clever comments as a leaping point to engage with the in between spaces suggested by the previous work on the problem of free will in a machinic world. It is suggested that network-centrism is not a deified human-centrism but, rather, a foreign territory with a full gamut of its own complexities. And, these complexities are largely incommensurable with current human perspectives.

Important Links:
The original work, which contains Lewitzky's comment.

I would like to start by saying that Jozef Lewitzky's comment to Deepening the Narcissistic Wound is an excellent series of thoughts in its own right. I will address each in turn.

Disregarding the Individual:
Lewitzky's observation that emerging network-centric intelligences necessitate the deconstruction of humanity, individualism, and intelligence is a case in point. Yet, one must question whether or not these intelligences are in fact "higher." It seems, rather, more suitable to argue that these intelligences are just 'different.' And, that this difference is unsuitable for the human-centric mentalities of the passing era.

Progress to Obsolescence:
There are many layers to Lewitzky's point here. First, the "I" is an elegant indication of the past age. And, though "I" am all for its annihilation (a contradiction in itself), this annihilation can only ever be partial. Much as the child decentrates from their personal, concrete perspective on the world to the logico-mathematical frame of abstractions, the new perspective never fully disregards the old. And, in various contexts, the child may return to this prior age in order to better frame a new problem. Similarly, the "I" is here to stay. Yet, the containers of that "I" must learn that it is not the only way and it is not even the best way in certain contexts of being. Though "I" will always be "I," the inability to imagine a world without "I" can only lead to a permanent ignorance of the new era.

On augmentation, humanity has already succeeded and continues to do so. The degree to which the flesh has become such a pervasive obsession seems to indicate the degree of this success: the body cannot be a fetish to those that necessitate it for subsistence. Like water to a fish, as 'they' say. The argument is that this fetishism is not necessary for persistence. Rather, the body will last as long as it is necessary with or without the over-attachment that is rampant today. And, one would expect that there is a very real possibility it will never completely be obsolete. As plants and animals 'feed' the life forms of more complex systems, humans may be necessary for the subsistence of machinic lifeforms. What is a computer virus without the largely human-centric relations that maintain it.

Praising Limitation:
Lewitzky's positive valuation of limitation is already a sophisticated position. The intent is not to challenge it here. Nor should one expect it ever to end. Networks have limitations just as humans have limitations but they are incredibly different. To cast them in humanity's light, to anthropomorphize, would be a major failing.

Self-reflexivity, however, is not of this form. The distribution of a peer-to-peer network as the members converge upon their identity and action as a network may be indicative of such reflexivity; though, the system really rides the cusp of the sapiens machina. To stray further into the alien, the convergence of the algorithms that trade stocks at speeds well beyond human capability may act and interact within their own system of relations in ways that warrant a description as 'reflexive.' Yet, to describe either network as an individual redefines the term so far outside its normal boundaries that any classical associations are incoherent. To 'localize' some portion of a broader network, in contrast, may well be a worthy endeavor that is devoid of the connotations and associations of the human-centric 'individual.'

Though the valuation of these things to a network is completely incomprehensible to me, the assumption that this valuation does not exist is the epitome of human-centrism. It is the human way to 'Other' all that it is foreign and unfamiliar. What needs to be done instead is find a way in which to communicate, much as one might when meeting a foreign 'human' culture.

Doomed from the Start:
Lewitzky is absolutely right: there is something 'human' that cannot be extracted from a network. And, it was a failing of the previous work to suggest otherwise. It is incredibly challenging to critique the old framework without setting oneself in opposition to it. This is why the annihilation, or perhaps abandonment, of the very distinction between humanity and machine was proposed; though, this probably just seemed contradictory when compared to the original, apparent opposition.

Accountability, on the other hand, is of the utmost importance in this new framing. It also offers an interesting insight into the problem of individuality. As an example, take the PirateBay and all similar facets of the industry of digital piracy. Acts of centralized justice on this force have been largely impotent. And, the imposition of contemporary propaganda on the individual fares similarly. Personal accountability distributed through a decentralized framework has no efficacy. Any solution, if it is to come about, must operate on a different level of organization that is entirely contrary to current, individualistic thinking. For better or for worse, such decentralized 'organizations' will continue to persist along with contemporary human biases.

It is unclear whether all of this means the prototypical human is "doomed." Was the plant doomed when animals emerged? Are animals really 'higher' life forms? Or, perhaps, the hierarchy is misconstrued. For, in death, all animals, including humans, are but the food that enriches the soil of our ancestors.

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