Chapter 1: Human's mind and computer's software. The world engine and The world emulator.
The hard problem of consciousness
How can conscious experience 'emerge' from the brain processing information? This question arrested the naive positivism of explaining consciousness from a purely physicalist point of view. Consciousness instead seems to be an experience to some extent aerial. The problem of consciousness can be ascribed back in time to the more general mind-body problem which generated a variety of approaches, from monism to dualism to panpsychism. A solution is still to be found and the mind-body problem, reformulated in neurophilosophy researches as the hard problem of consciousness becomes a not avoidable challenge. In the last 30 years, an increasing number of scientists started to take the problem into consideration as a valid field of study. What we basically learned during this time, is that our knowledge of consciousness is in a primitive state and now it is starting to become a proper field of science.
Why is this relevant in the context of AI?
During the end of the '60s, cognitive scientists developed a model of the mind based on the computational power of computers, the so-called: computational theory of mind (CTM). The brain becomes a computer and reasoning a computational process. Vice versa through the computational power of the computer it would be possible to reproduce the brain and its properties. At that time, Artificial Intelligence was already born and the Turing's test opened up a series of reflections on the actual possibilities to create intelligent computers capable to interact with humans without being recognized as computers. The whole point of the Turing's test is based on the fact that if you don't notice that your interlocutor is a computer, that computer for you results as an intelligence, even if it is not. But, of course, the research in AI couldn't stop there, and the need to create complete intelligence and a computer capable to reproduce all the things that humans can do becomes one of the most important need to achieve in the field. Singularity becomes the vector of AI researchers. In this context, the researches on neurophilosophy, and in particular the hard problem of consciousness, shaped a new understanding of AI supplanting the enthusiasm of the CTM with a realism impossible to not take in consideration. The idea of AI splits in two versions: the weak AI, a machine characterized by its intelligence limited to a specific or narrow area, and the strong AI, which is capable to apply its intelligence to any problems and characterized by its consciousness.
Metzinger's theory of consciousness
In 2009 Metzinger published a book called 'The ego tunnel' where he wants to give access to a non-specialized public, to the new researches on the field of consciousness while developing in parallel, a coherent theory of consciousness based on these researches. The essential feature of Metzinger's theory, is the capability of our consciousness to create a world, the phenomenical world, in which the consciousness itself is represented and embodied in an object, the body. But apart from the world created, consciousness provides a 'personal self-model' to itself, an ego, your idea of yourself, which becomes automatically transparent, as well as the world. Transparent means that it is taken for granted that you, by default, don't question the existence of the world around you and the self which defines who you are. Metzinger shows how neuroscience understands the world and the self as virtual realities projected by your consciousness on an existing and chaotic reality 'out there'.
What does it means to apply this framework to software?
Trying to apply this framework to the researches on AI and computer science, can show new directions and complexities in the research of singularity, and as well in the research of ALife, where scientists try to emulate life as a 'complex adaptive system'. On the other hand it opens up a new understanding of life as something not yet known that could actually have points in common with computers as machines processing information. If comparing the mind-body relation to the hardware-software relation could be a limitation for the understanding of the mind, the other side of the coin shows how the software produces a 'proto-subjectivity' that is, a complex system emerging from the hardware, a world that manifests itself in the interaction with human consciousness.
If consciousness is characterized by the self immersed in the world, the software shows its lack of consciousness as there is not a 'self' interacting with a world. However when the software run, a world is created, a world that raises from the physicality of hardware.
Software: the world emulator
Chapter 2: Mind-Software tunneling
* Out of hardware experience * Exploring software * Recursive virtual machines * Deep networks * There is one software
Chapter 3: Becoming machinic
* Alien theory & positive individualism * Being with the software * Hyperself The
Human existence in the machinc phylum.
The raise of digital technologies is drastically changing our relation with the world around us. To understand this new futuristic landscape, human beings are reformulating their knowledge to encompass an increasing complexity. Complexity which is not only dooming the social system but which is destroying our planet and its ecosystem.
Capitalistic politics rules and enhact this complexity on a daily basis through systems of control and regulation, continuously hiding its innermost mechanisms and processes. Potentially, every action connected to a digital technology is scanned and archived to be processed and used to evolve the system itself. Terms such as cognitive, or algorithmic, capitalism, don't seems to reveal anymore this evolving and self-regulatory system of power, so new theories appears, abstracting reality, to understand hyper-complexity from an advanced point of view. Nick Land's vision of Capitalism as an alien* form of life, draws a new drama of 'the other'. As childs scared by the Boogeyman, synonym of darkness, we see living creatures coming from a reality too much present and inavoidable, infinitely projected in a pitched black future. Not casually, Mark Fisher, another representative of the CCRU, with its 'capitalist realism' perfectly pictured this void, and not only*, showing how real and destructive are the results of a metaphor.
In parallel, the increasing popularity of science-fictional AIs, almost ready to become the new hegemonic forms of life, perfectly fits the fear. In the realm of artificial agents, little is left for the ordinary person incapable to unpack the black box. With the evolution of neural networks and deep learning technologies, also scientists are losing this power, and artificial brains are instinctively accused of being alive.
If capitalist politics, engine of our social sphere, and artificial intelligence, uncontrollable power of 'the other', tend to meet at the top of their extremism, what is left to the individual experience?
With this thesis I want to give license to the free exploration of the individual experience mediated by digital technologies. In particular, how the understanding of software, helps an exploration of the self as an existential space, a space of freedom, capable to deal with catastrophic and onnipresent realities, to re-learn how to built worlds from scratch instead of the general nihilism percived around us.
The machinic phylum
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