Alan Sondheim on 20 Sep 2000 00:19:27 -0000

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Re: <nettime> The Age of Spiritual Machines (Review)

I may be way out of place in this debate, not having read Kurzweil, but to
assume that a computer can only do algorithmic activity seems problematic
to me, founded on older models of computation. For one thing, break the
algorithm and feed the results to parallel neural nets - the easiest way
to break is to use random numbers (not pseudo-random), for example based
on radioactive decay - it doesn't matter.

Algorithmic activity such as is described here is of the GIGO variety,
correlated inputs/outputs. What happens in the interior? I was part of a
systems group at Brown U. all the way back in the literal dark ages of the
late 60s - at that point there was interest in modeling machine states and
- again perhaps only at that point - one of the researchers said basically
that the more the input/output matrices ostensibly modeled the mind, the
less it was possible to model the machine states. Even at that point, in
other words, there were hints that the (relatively simple) machine was
phenomenologically in a state of surplus economics - which in the future
may result in machinic cultures.

I personally see no limits whatsoever on machines, beyond the obvious of
packing density, noise, tunneling, etc. in the hardware; the theoretical
limits are enormous. And as the machine becomes increasingly responsive to
external signals (temperature, human inputs, hearing/vision, etc.) new
elements will be added - almost an inverse of Merlin Donald's thesis, in
which the organic is extended into the machinic - in other words, the
machinic will extend into and throughout the environment. To speak of
algorithmic behavior in this context is to look back at Minsky's percep-
tons as a guide to what we now know about neural functioning.


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