There are approximately 7 Billion people in the world. 50 of them read this newsletter, or at least have their virtual agents open it and pretend to read it. I am 1.4 x 10^8 th of my way to total domination. Please give to your local cult.
“a giant computer in a cathedral, how quaint! But no, it is real, and that rules.” – @cheshster
I was listening to the Blade Runner soundtrack, as you do on those days when everything is awful in just the way that can only be dealt with by way of listening to Blade Runner Blues while walking slowly and gazing off into the middle distance. I got to the bit where Deckard is talking to his home computer, in that platonic origin of all “Enhance” sequences, and it got me thinking. Clearly Deckard’s home computer (probably a police model, probably quasi-legally souped up, and tied into whatever replaced the NCIC database in San Angeles, the computer equivalent of a ex-cop Ford Charger with the regulator removed) can understand natural language voice commands, so it maybe has some kind of weak version of the AI that drives the replicants. How strong is that weak AI? Is Deckard’s home computer as smart as a Nexus 4 (because we’re up to Nexus 6 in the movie, and that seems to be a reasonable curve for military technology to be in use by police forces)? Is the only thing that keeps Deckard from putting a bullet through the monitor the fact that it’s a monitor and not a face? In essence, how much of the need to Retire replicants is that they scare us by looking too much like us?
And is this a sort of backhanded prediction of what happens when we finally cross the Uncanny Valley? Is the Uncanny Valley a programmed response in humans put there by our time traveling neuromechanical overlords to allow for the development of AI in the safe zone of us not yet wanting to shoot it in its all-too-human face? Or perhaps I just need to drink more coffee. Clearly looking over my use of parentheticals above that is at least part of the issue.
Last Newsletter, I mentioned some thoughts I was having about the notions of metis and techne. And I got a reply on twitter from my friend @michiexile
michiexile @michiexile Hey @mediapathic? I’m intrigued and slightly confused by your definitions of metis vs. techne. Where should I go to learn more?
Well, that’s a good question. And one it turns out is not as easy to answer as I had thought.
To recap briefly, I’ll just quote what I said there:
the notion of metis, which I’m going to roughly and inaccurately characterize here as “local, pragmatic, bottom-up knowledge”, in opposition to techne, equally inaccurately defined as “systemic, theoretical, top-down knowledge.”
So the first thing to keep in mind here is that I may be making all of this up. At the time I wrote that, the extent of my research was reading Scott’s uses of the terms in Seeing Like a State, wherein he freely admits to an unconventional usage, and some reading of wikipedia to ensure that my notions were at least reasonably in line with what we know of the ancient usage. Everything else there is a product of my own questionable mental processes.
I started doing some other research online, with the assumption that someone had at least done some kind extrapolation along the same lines, of applying these ideas to the Hackish Spirit. It’s one of those notions that, once you think of it, seems so apparent that you assume someone else has already done it. But, apparently not. I came up with two interesting (lacks of) results. First, it’s really hard to even find references to the notions in the classical sense. There’s so little discussion that one is left with the impression that, in terms of ancient Greek philosophical tradition, they may have just been the product of an overzealous translator. Or, at least, that there are certain problems that one still needs a library for.
The second thing I noticed, which is more interesting to me, is that nearly every result I have found that actually uses the terms in any technical sense seems to be about the infrastructure of terrorist organizations. There’s a budding industry right now in analysis of terrorists, not just because they are the Threat Du Jour of the Empire, but also because they represent new modes (or at least new scales of old modes) of organization that we’ve never seen before. Analysts are seemingly slavering at the prospect of combing through Al Qaida’s spreadsheets (that’s not hyperbolic), to the point where it nearly feels as though they’re rooting for the terrorists just so they can see what new weird structural thing those little scamps come up with. And I don’t particularly blame them. We need radical new forms of organization as it becomes increasingly clear that all of our old ones are falling apart. Who could blame us for looking at the structures diametrically opposed to extant ones?
Which is a topic worthy of an entire other post, so I’ll leave off on that. The takeaway here being that, no, Michiexile, I have no idea how to find more information on this and it may have just been some sort of invention of my fevered imagination. If any readers have useful links for the exploration of metis and techne in either the classical sense, or any metaphor outside that of state or parastate organization, please drop me a line back. Or, hit me up on twitter, I remain, as ever, yrs, @mediapathic.
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