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Category: flaneur

Cyborgs: “Does it bother you that I’m not completely human?”

This is Episode 2 of Naive and Dangerous, the podcast series about emergent media I am recording together with my colleague Dr Chris Moore. In this episode we discuss the notion of the cyborg and the tension between being a cyborg and being a human. We start by unpacking the various meanings injected in the concept of a cyborg, using recent movies such as Alita Battle Angel and Ghost in the Shell as a starting point. As is our habit, we engage in extensive speculative analysis of the cyborg trope, from contemporary cinema, to cyberpunk, early science fiction imaginaries of robots, the assembly line, and ancient mythology. In the process we develop a definition of cyborg/humans and manage to have a lot of fun. Have a listen.

Cognitive mercantilism

In his Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism Robert Jay Lifton gives the following interesting definition of the language of a totalist environment [p.429]:

The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. […] [B]rief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed […] become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.

In other words, the preponderance of thought-terminating cliché phrases such as ‘agree to disagree’, ‘it’s all relative’, ‘this is hate-speech’, ‘these are the facts’, ‘[authority figures] all agree’, ‘this is [x] privilege’, ‘that’s your opinion’ is a symptom of being in a totalist environment.

A totalist environment is characterized by fully synthetic thinking, itself a function of a dynamic milieu control of information. In an environment of dynamic milieu control, certain information inputs – phrases, words, images, feelings – are branded as undesirable and banned from circulation. This in turn means that any and all thoughts associated with these information inputs become undesirable and dangerous.

In effect, synthetic thinking, as modulated by milieu control, acts to remove undesirable wrong-think and wrong-speech from all downstream communication feedback loops. Importantly, this is a self-reinforcing mechanism which, over time, generates an equally synthetic, and total, image of reality.

When consistently performed at scale over a given time-space, the causal chain of milieu control >> synthetic thinking >> synthetic reality leads to the emergence of cognitive mercantilism. Cognitive mercantilism is the systemic and dynamic formatting of the cognitive processing of a given local reality [i.e. a country], as directed by the actors in control of the communication mechanism of that local reality [i.e. the state].

This is how this maps to the historical process so far:

local mercantilism [tribal/feudal state] >> colonial mercantilism [empire/colonial state] >> [pseudo] liberal colonialism [we are here] >> cognitive mercantilism

“I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Why Humans Fear AI.

This is Episode 1 of Naive and Dangerous, a new podcast series about emergent media I am recording together with my colleague Dr Chris Moore. In this episode we discuss the fears surrounding the emergence of Artificial Intelligence and its effects across the fabric of human society. We engage in some speculative analysis of the AI phenomenon and its tropes from current cinema, to cyberpunk, 19th century Romanticism, the ancient Mediterranean world’s fascination with automata, and ancient mythology.

Daguerreotype ghosts

Hauntingly otherworldly daguerreotype portraits from the 1850s. Their names are long forgotten, only the glitched artefacts remain.

All reproductions are from Michael Shanks’ Ghosts in the Mirror.

Complex systems and glitch

The more complex and orderly the system, the more it is prone to confuse its internal states for external reality. It confuses its internal order for external one.

That is why when things glitch and get weird we see new and strange states appear. The system’s internal cohesion momentarily glitches or breaks, and we get the chance to reframe our cognitive image of reality.

That’s when we learn.