Cyberneticsandghosts

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Calvino cybernetics and ghosts

It all began with the first storyteller of the tribe. Men were already exchanging articulate sounds. refer­ ring to the practical needs of their daily lives. Dialogue was already in existence, and so were the rules that it was forced to follow. This was the life of the tribe, a very complex set of rules on which every action and every situation had to be based

And the more limited were the choices of phrase or behavior, the more complex the rules of language or custom were forced to become in order to master an ever-increasing variety of situations. The extreme poverty of ideas about the world then available to man was matched by a detailed, all-embracing code of rules.


The storyteller began to put forth words, not because he thought others might reply with other, predictable words, but to test the extent to which words could fit with one another, could give birth to one another, in order to extract an explanation of the world from the thread of every possible spoken narrative

the figures and the actions were limited The storyteller explored the possibilities implied in his own language by combining and changing the permutations of the figures and the actions, and of the objects on which these actions could be brought to bear. What emerged were stories


Every animal, every object, every relationship took on beneficial or malign powers that came to be called magical powers but should, rather, have been called narrative powers, potentialities contained in the word, in its ability to link itself to other words on the plane of discourse.

Vladimir Propp , russian folk tales, all such tales were like variants of a single tale, and could be broken down into a limited number of narrative function.Forty years later Claude L6vi-Strauss, working on the myths of the Indians of Brazil, saw these as a system of logical operations between permutable terms, so that they could be studied according to the mathematical processes of combinatorial analysis.

literature. Russian formalism. Barthes school.

The combinatorial play of narrative possibilities soon passes beyond the level of content to touch upon the relationship of the narrator to the material related and to the reader

Tel Quel group. writing consists no longer in narrating but in saying that one is narrating, and what one says becomes identified with the very act of saying. The psychological person is replaced by a linguistic or even a grammatical person, defined solely by his place in the discourse

The world in its various aspects is increasingly looked upon as discrete rather than continuous. I am using the term "discrete" in the sense it bears in mathematics, a discrete quantity being one made up of separate parts

Shannon, Weiner, von Neumann, and Turing have radically altered our image of our mental processes

every analytical process, every division into parts, tends to provide an image of the world that is ever more complicated

Raymond Lully and his ars combinatoria.

19 century the triumph of historical continuity now(1967) = the triumph of discontinuity, divisibility and combination over all that is flux

In other words, the endless variety of living forms can be reduced to the combination of certain finite quantities. Here again, it is information theory that imposes its patterns. The processes that appeared most resistant to a formulation in terms of number, to a quantitative description, are not translated into mathematical patterns

American school led by Chomsky is exploring the deep structure of language, lying at the roots of the logical processes that may constitute no longer a historical characteristic of man, but a biological one


Kholmogorov's school carries out studies of a highly academic scientific nature based on the calculation of probabilities and the quantity of information contained in poems


will we have a machine capable of replacing the poet and the author? Just as we already have machines that can read, machines that perform a linguistic analysis of literary texts, machines that make translations and summaries, will we also have machines capable of conceiving and composing poems and novels?

I am thinking of a writing machine that would bring to the page all those things that we are accustomed to consider as the most jealously guarded attributes of our psychological life, of our daily experience, our unpredictable changes of mood and inner elations, despairs and moments of illumination. What are these if not so many linguistic "fields," for which we might well succeed in establishing the vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and properties of permutation? What would be the style of a literary automaton?


given that developments in cybernetics lean toward machines capable of learning, of changing their own programs, nothing prevents us from foreseeing a literature-machine that at a certain point feels unsatisfied with its own traditionalism and starts to propose new ways of writing, turning its own codes completely upside down


The so-called personality of the writer exists within the very act of writing: it is the product and the instrument of the writing process

Once we have dismantled and reassembled the process of literary composition, the decisive moment of literary life will be that of reading