missing that sub subject which cannot be mentioned (relating to week of 11/4)

Although I’m sure it was not his intention since I was not born in 1948, I would like to thank Norman Wiener for confirming my theory about technology–namely, that its progress is like a bell curve where the right hand end drops off the page into an abyss. Or, to restate, the more of it there is, the less good it does.

As Wiener points out, “an investigation of the stock market is likely to upset the stock market”; further, investigations of the social sciences can “never be good to more than a very few decimal places.”

This to me seems to be the problem with the movement from books to computers and thence to cyborgs — books have nuance and therefore are more scientific because they are deductive.  Computers and cyborgs, paradoxically, because entirely digitally-based, will always have a margin of error.  And because that which determines what hormones do, for example, is within this margin of error, that seems to me a limit of technology.

Or, put even more simply, in artisan terms, this is a question of vector versus digital specification.  Take fonts.  There are two kinds of font shapes — digital and vector.  A digital font will eventually pixellate at large size: that is, it reaches a margin of error where it no longer describes a letter.  However, a vector font is described by formula. Because it is deductive, it has a much smaller margin of error (that is, only the margin of error in the formula itself, but not in its results).

To design technology to replace ourselves, we would have to write a perfect vector formula. While this is no doubt theoretically possible, doing so would require breaking the theory of limits which is that a curve approaching an infinity limit never reaches its limit.  And this to me, because it seems impossible, seems to rule out recreating human intelligence.

According to Hayles, Wiener’s problem is that cybernetics “can potentially annihilate the liberal subject as the locus of control.” Hayles notes that Wiener is concerned by the demise of sexuality. I’m interested but not surprised that both of them are concerned that, as Hayles says, “the science of control might rob its progenitor of the very control that was no doubt for him one of its most attractive features.”

Hayles and Wiener both miss both a general understanding or subtle feel for the sadomasochistic aspects of this subject.  I don’t expect them to address it in academic writing; but due to the family nature of our audience, I’ll just say that that is where the missing coefficient lies.

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One Response to “missing that sub subject which cannot be mentioned (relating to week of 11/4)”

  1. That Cummings not only can’t add, he also can’t count. Obviously Wiener didn’t write about Cummings in 1948, since Cummings was not born yet. Do you need to tell us that? Of course, we might get both of these guys confused and intertwangles or whatever since their names are so similar — Cummings — Wiener — Cummings — Wiener — give me a break. These names are as fake as a 69-dollar bill. Personally, one of the great advantages of cybernetics might be that I could control these two to the degree that I could force their names to change. Hey that would probably turn them both on, so don’t accuse me of misunderstanding masochism. Go to hell!

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