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Re: <nettime> living systems theory [2x]
Newmedia on Fri, 25 Jan 2013 17:08:59 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> living systems theory [2x]


John:
 
>In general, living systems process more information 
>than non-living systems, with the possible exception 
>of computers which have greater information  processing
>capabilities.

Really?  On what basis would *anyone* think that machines can be  compared 
in this way with humans or, for that matter, other living  organisms?
 
The only one I can think of is the desire to "replace" the one with the  
other (e.g. "immanentize the Eschaton") -- as in Ray Kurzweil and his  
"pill-popping" cheat-death sideshow, the Singularity.
 
Kurzweil -- who is now designing a "brain" at Google (good luck!), after it 
 became clear that he wasn't being appreciated at Google-backed Singularity 
 University (which has now become a New Age MBA program) -- got his first 
big  popularity boost by George Gilder, who wrote a chapter on him (titled 
"The Age  of Intelligent Machines," the same as Ray's 1990 book) in his 
best-selling 1989  "Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and 
Technology."  
 
George, who is a radical "millenialist," sold Ray to the world.   And the 
acknowledgements for Microcosm has a curious sentence, "At the end, Mark  
Stahlman of Sanford C. Bernstein gave me the benefit of his sophisticated  
insights on information technology and his broader sense of the philosophical  
issues of the microcosm."
 
What did I do for George?  I edited all his remarks about the 2nd Law  of 
Thermodynamics out of the book.  I was trained as a Molecular Geneticist  and 
my "godfather" was Norbert Wiener, so I have had a chance to think a bit  
about the topic of the living vs. cybernetic -- without the *religious* and  
*ideological* confusions that Gilder, the "economist," overlays on all  this.
 
George has another book coming out this spring.  What's it on?   The 2nd 
Law of Thermodynamics!  (Sometimes they never learn.  <g>)
 
Machines are FUNDAMENTALLY different from humans and other living  
creatures.  Thinking otherwise is just confused or, as Wiener put it,  "bamboozled" 
and the result of "intellectual laziness"!
 
Machines will *never* become CONSCIOUS because that's an "organic"  
development, which has a completely different etiology and,  crucially, teleology.  
Why would a machine have any "interest" in any  of that?  But why some 
humans might be interested is very different  story.  Some people *really* want 
to "change the world"!
 
As I stressed in my review of George Dyson's 2012 "Turing's Cathedral: The  
Origins of the Digital Universe," he is correct that software isn't "life" 
but  is in fact something quite new and different -- which deserves to be  
investigated with its own "biologists" etc.
 
_http://m.strategy-business.com/article/120301?gko=396e7_ 
(http://m.strategy-business.com/article/120301?gko=396e7) 
 
Enough about the past.  What happens when people recognize that  "living 
systems theory" doesn't MAKE ANY SENSE?
 
What will they come up with to replace it?  
 
And, with Wiener's predictions about robots replacing human workers coming  
true (the latest machines can replace lab-bench experimenting post-docs), 
will  people pay any attention to what he said in his 1950 "The Human Use of 
Human  Beings" (a topic of some interest at the 1997 "Beauty and the East" 
nettime  meeting in Ljublana)?
 
Maybe, after 15+ years, it's time for another of these "squad  meetings" . 
. . ??
 
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY


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