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Bill Gates And Other Post Organic Analogies Of Artificial Intelligence
This nOde last updated October 8th, 2001 and is permanently morphing...
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Bill Gates and Other Post Organic Analogies of Artificial Intelligence.
by Steven Shaviro

"My mind is like a taperecorder with one button--Erase."  said Andy Warhol Maybe that's what they mean when they say that "internal linkinformation wants to be free."

internal linkInformation, like internal linkNietzsche's will to power, is not a static entity, not a resource that can be conserved or capitalized. Use it
Friedrich Nietzsche

or lose it. It is a dynamic inner differential, "the  last internal linkdelta-t" (internal linkPynchon), "a difference which makes a difference" (Gregory Bateson). Just as the will to power is "a structure in which differences of potential are distributed, a constitutive dissymmetry, difference, or inequality" (Deleuze), so information is composed of reversible gradients of electronic potential and ever-changing dissymmetries of charge. It is a matter of gates and switches, of internal linkpulses and internal linkfluxes. Its internal linkoscillations may be induced chemically at synaptic thresholds, or they may be triggered by clock signals on internal linksilicon chips; in either case, the world is aconstruct of self-organizing and self-executing binary programs. Rucker defines the information content of any object as "the length of the shortest computer program that would answer any possible question about that object"; on this basis, he proclaims that "internal linkreality" is nothing more (or less) than "an incompressible computation by a internal linkfractal cellular automaton of inconceivableinternal linkdimensions." Indeed, an extensive internal linkdigital software seems at work within the most diverse regimes of matter: we find the same nonlinear equations, fractal patterns, and internal linkstrange attractors regulating variations in the weather, disturbances of cardiac rhythms, distributions of charge in neural internal linknetworks, fluctuations in the stock market. But these are not closed, balanced systems; they are rather what Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers call dissipative structures, operating in "far-from-equilibrium" conditions, forever poised at the edge of internal linkchaosHail Eris!. Being is not stable, but paradoxically, precariously metastable.

In such conditions, behavior is in a real sense spontaneous or "free": internal linkinfinitely sensitive to the most minute variations, it cannot be predicted, anticipated, or controlled from the outside. Not even Marxists believe in central planning anymore. But this "free" behavior is still information, and nothing but information: which means that it is ultimately computable, to any desired degree of accuracy. It's simply a matter of running the right simulations: of course, you need good software, and an awful lot of CPU internal linktime.

Chaos theory thus harmonizes freedom and determinism, or chance and necessity, in much the same way that Leibniz, the first great philospher of information, reconciled free will with the infallible foreknowledge of God. God knows everything that will happen to me, according to Leibniz, because that information is enveloped in the concept--or as we should say, the program--of what I am. But the running of this program, the calculation of my being, is what mathematicians call an NP-complete problem: one that apparently cannot be solved by an efficient, time-reducing algorithm. The computation is so vast that it can only take place in internal linkreal time, the very time of my lived experience; and the universe itself, in its entirety, is the only computer big enough to crunch all the numbers.

You might say, then, that "reality" itself is one enormous simulation, with information continually being computed to infinite decimal places. In the beginning was not the Word, but lines and lines of code. God is neither a stern judge nor a loving father; he is rather, as Leibniz implicitly argues, a master programmer. Such is the theology best suited to our postmodern experience of the internal linkhyperreal: a vision that moves beyond the dead end of modernist paranoia.  Descartes, the prototypical modernist, worried that the Deity was actually an evil demon, bent on deceiving him. His attempts to persuade himself that God could be trusted after all are never altogether convincing. For once the seeds of paranoid doubt and existential angst have been planted, there's no way of eradicating them. Even internal linkBaudrillard is still a Late Cartesian, worried that hyperreal simulation has left us adrift in a vacant universe, "without origin or reality." For us, however--as indeed already for Leibniz--this simply isn't a problem. The discovery that God is a programmer running simulations is precisely what guarantees his veracity. For if God wanted to deceive us, then first and foremost he'd have to deceive himself. But if that were the case, then even his lies would end up being true. As internal linkHans Moravec puts it, "A simulated Descartes correctly deduces his own existence. It makes no difference just who or what is doing the simulation--the simulated world is complete in itself." Our existence is no less real, for being that of a computer simulation, or an idea in the mind of God. Reality-testing involves what internal linkWittgenstein would call a deep tautology: "What is, is. No fantasy. Pain. Just the details" (Kathy Acker). For what other criterion of truth and reality do wehave? Philosophers in the Cartesian tradition are always trying to establish internal linkfoundations and universals. But in every case, the philosophical groundings they've come up with are less evident, less solid and secure, than the very phenomena they are supposed to ground. The only convincing 'reality test' is a pragmatic one: "Just try--in a real case--to doubt someone else's fear or pain"(Wittgenstein). When we say that something is "real," we generally mean that it's so vivid, overwhelming, and all-embracing that it would be a frivolous--or willfully cynical--intellectual exercise to entertain Cartesian doubts as to its validity. Something is real because it's internal linkintense, and not the reverse.
Hans Moravec

And so we no longer ask the old Cartesian question: is it real or is it Memorex? We trust and believe that the world is real, precisely because we know it to be a simulation. Thanks to computers, we have rid ourselves of the representationalist prejudice that played so baleful a role in the history of Western thought. For a simulation is not a representation, but something altogether different: "to simulate something you need more than mere mimicry, more than an ability to produce actions that are like the ones you are wanting to simulate. You need a working model" (Benjamin Woolley). A representation comes after the object it imitates or signifies. That's why "the symbol is the murder of the thing," as Lacan put it: every representation implies, to some measure, the "lack"--the replacement, the death or the absence--of the thing it is supposed to represent. A simulation, on the contrary, precedes its object: it doesn't imitate or stand in for a given thing, but provides a program for generating it. The simulacrum is the birth of the thing, rather than its death.

As Deleuze and Guattari say, simulation is how the real is effectively produced. No real without its hyperreal: the map becomes the territory. Reality will be internal linkvirtual, or not at all. We live in an age of information, rather than one of representation and signification; and information is characterized by plenitude and redundancy--not lack. Leibniz argues that, among all possible worlds, God necessarily chose to create the one having "the greatest quantity of reality." In postmodern terms, this amounts to saying that the program simulating our universe is more powerful and detailed, more internal linkintense, morepacked with information--more real, in short--than anything we could possibly run on our own feeble machines, or imagine inside our heads. The situation is rather like that in internal linkquantum mechanics. A wave function is inherently indeterminate and probabilistic; but it collapses, or gets determined, once it has been observed and measured. Contrary to popular misconception, however, this measuring internal linkintervention need not imply consciousness on the part of the 'observer.' A mechanical device, like a counter, is sufficient to make the wave function collapse. Simulation, likewise, is a relativistic and perspectival internal linkprocess, but not for all that a internal linksubjective one. It coerces my participation, but does not require it. As Wallace Stevens writes, "it fills the being before the mind can think." Information overload, you might say, is our proof that an external world really exists. We do not hallucinate an imaginary presence, says Deleuze: "it's rather presence itself that is  hallucinatory."

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