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<nettime> interview with alan shapiro

Star Trek, Marx and Time Travel

January 5, 2010, 4:40 am

Star Trek, Marx and Time Travel

Alan Shapiro - Star guest of the next Transmediale - on new computers,  
1968 and anarchism

Interview in the Berlin daily newspaper "Neues Deutschland," January  
5, 2010

Translated from the German by Dwight ?Doc? Gooden

As a software specialist, Alan Shapiro would like to set the digital  
world on a new footing. As a philosopher, he wants to introduce new  
thinking into the world.  And as an "anarchist reader of Marx" (self- 
description), he not only steers Marx's critique of capitalism in a  
new direction, he also believes that alienation and exploitation can  
be dragged and dropped to the trash of history. Shapiro, who at one  
time worked at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology  
(MIT), has been active for 20 years as a software developer and media  
studies scholar, especially in Germany. In February, he will be a  
signature speaker at the Berlin Transmediale media and art festival.

Neues Deutschland: You want to develop a completely new kind of  
computer, and found a New Computer Science. How are we to understand  

 Existing computers are based on the scientific norms of the 17th  
century. They go back to the mechanistic philosophy of Ren? Descartes.  
Their goal is to reduce complexity. A problem is broken down into  
smaller, more manageable units. This works for a kind of machine-like  
software. There is no holistic relationship between the parts and the  
whole. The parts and the whole are related to each other like the  
parts of a car. In 20th and 21st century philosophy, by contrast, a  
lot of emphasis is placed on an integral perspective. I am thinking  
above all of the French thinkers like Deleuze, Baudrillard and  
Foucault. The New Medicine and the New Biology are also characterized  
by an integral approach.

What does that mean when transferred to Computer Science?

New computers should come closer to this integral approach. Biology  
teaches us that each individual member of a species, in every second  
of its existence, is reading its genetic code.  From this body of  
knowledge that belongs to its species, the singular individual decodes  
information in real-time for its own existence. Transferred to  
computer science, this means that we must develop a new relationship  
between the executable program and the database elements.

Will that lead to better, faster, and more powerful computers?

Computers will themselves become more complex rather than being  
engineered as tools for the reduction of complexity. Let us face this  
fact: with existing software, nothing surprising can happen. There can  
be no surprises and no emergence. Only what the software developer has  
pre-programmed can occur. New computers will be more flexible.

What we intend to do can be described as a new relationship of  
patterns and similarities. It?s like in music, where, for example,  
each single note in a symphony has resonance with the entire symphony.

You take your examples from science and art. Do you believe that  
artistic approaches are helpful in technology development?

Absolutely! I am very influenced by the cultural revolution of 1968,  
by the student rebellions, the liberation movements in all areas of  
society, also New Age and Buddhism, the whole panorama of holistic  
ideas for happiness.

I published a book about the technologies of Star Trek. It has been  
recognized as an important work of sociology. I believe that we are  
very close to a new paradigmatic breakthrough where art, science, and  
philosophy will be unified. Then we will be able to develop the Star  
Trek technologies. In the middle term, in about 20 years, time travel  
will also be possible. The first step towards that is the New Computer  

At the present time, almost everyone who believes himself to be in  
touch with the times wants to bring art, science, and philosophy into  
harmony with each other. What is different about what you are doing?

We unify theory and practice. That?s what Karl Marx said. I have done  
an anarchistic reading of Marx. We will replace work with play,  
enjoyment, friendship, creativity, and diversity of activities.

This is a new anarchistic Marxism that we will first try out at  
Shapiro Technologies as a radical-pragmatic utopian experiment.

What will Shapiro Technologies develop?

We will be active in technology, media, futuristic design, and  
ecology. The basis of our advanced technology is a new mathematics  
that has been developed by the Irish mathematician Alexis Clancy. He  
is a genius, a new Einstein.

The individual products can be very diverse. We are trying at the  
present time to get contracts at the Deutsche Bahn in the area of  
logistics, at Volkswagen or another automobile manufacturer in the  
areas of Spoken Dialogue Technology and the Car of the Future, with  
Computer Games developers working on emotions and storytelling/ 
narrative, in Japan with interactive talking comic books, and at Pixar/ 
Disney in America with Artificial Life characters at theme parks.

In February, you are going to present a new car at the Transmediale.  
Can you tell us something about that?

The car should no longer be reduced to the transport function of  
getting from Point A to Point B. Here it is also about taking an  
integral approach. Speech capabilities should be integrated. The car  
will become a new game platform. Video projections can be made on all  
the car's windows with a new glass technology. The car becomes a  
cockpit for all kinds of virtual reality simulations which are at the  
same time experienced physically. The car becomes a vehicle for  
traveling into cyberspace. Additionally, the car should be turned on  
its side, be transformable into a vertical car, its width should be  
decreased by 45%. As they are now, cars take up much too much space in  
the urban environment.

Interviewer: Tom Mustroph


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