The Anxious Cyborg – 2

As the  human/machine relationship continues to develop, information processing increasingly defines how work is done.  In turn, it enters into human considerations of what it means to exist, to intend and to act.

The flow of information mediated by computed coding enables a built environment that creates ever-increasing opportunities for more information to enable more machine work and functioning.  As I previously wrote:

From a machinic perspective, the development of M2M technology introduces a reverse instrumentality.  Technology continues to serve cyborg ends, but cyborgs also become data factories for machines.   Technology has begun to have as its end its own growth and evolution as much as whatever human function it may nominally have….  The world becomes the operational environment of technology.  The Anxious Cyborg

This of course is simply my particular iteration of a complex of ideas others have discussed for a long time now.  Yet, even accounting for the self reinforcing character of much of my blog reading, I feel I have been encountering an unusual number of variations and improvements on this theme.

A recent  post by R. Scott Bakker gives a flavor of the broadly integrative approach that characterizes his blog. He has a particular interest in exploring the vivid deceptiveness of human self-awareness.

Meanwhile, it seems almost certain that the future is only going to become progressively more post-intentional, more difficult to adequately cognize via our murky, apriori intuitions regarding normativity. Even as we speak, society is beginning a second great wave of rationalization, an extraction of organizational efficiencies via the pattern recognition power of Big Data: the New Social Physics. The irrelevance of content—the game of giving and asking for reasons—stands at the root of this movement, whose successes have been dramatic enough to trigger a kind of Moneyball revolution within the corporate world. Where all our previous organizational endeavours have arisen as products of consultation and experimentation, we’re now being organized by our ever-increasing transparency to ever-complicating algorithms. As Alex Pentland (whose MIT lab stands at the forefront of this movement) points out, “most of our beliefs and habits are learned by observing the attitudes, actions, and outcomes of peers, rather than by logic or argument” (Social Physics, 61). The efficiency of our interrelations primarily turns on our unconscious ability to ape our peers, on automatic social learning, not reasoning. Thus first person estimations of character, intelligence, and intent are abandoned in favour of statistical models of institutional behaviour.  Arguing No One: Wolfendale and the Penury of ‘Pragmatic Functionalism’ R. Scott Bakker

Taking a more political turn, Robin James describes the mutual arising of behavior and data in the context of capitalism.

Big data capital wants to get in synch with you just as much as post-identity MRWaSP wants you to synch up with it. [2] Cheney-Lippold calls this process of mutual adaptation “modulation” (168).   A type of “perpetual training” (169) of both us and the algorithms that monitor us and send us information, modulation compels us to temper ourselves by the scales set out by algorithmic capitalism, but it also re-tunes these algorithms to fall more efficiently in phase with the segments of the population it needs to control.

The algorithms you synch up with determine the kinds of opportunities and resources that will be directed your way, and the number of extra hoops you will need to jump through (or not) to be able to access them. Modulation “predicts our lives as users by tethering the potential for alternative futures to our previous actions as users” (Cheney-Lippold 169). Your past patterns of behavior determine the opportunities offered you, and the resources you’re given to realize those opportunities.  Robin James Visible Social Identies vs Algorithmic Identities

Shifting the focus from a systemic and political view, Alistair Croll discusses the individual ethical dimensions of these issues.

Big data is about reducing the cost of analyzing our world. The resulting abundance is triggering entirely new ways of using that data. Visualizations, interfaces, and ubiquitous data collection are increasingly important, because they feed the machine — and the machine is hungry….

Perhaps the biggest threat that a data-driven world presents is an ethical one. Our social safety net is woven on uncertainty. We have welfare, insurance, and other institutions precisely because we can’t tell what’s going to happen — so we amortize that risk across shared resources. The better we are at predicting the future, the less we’ll be willing to share our fates with others. And the more those predictions look like facts, the more justice looks like thoughtcrime.  Alistair Croll New ethics for a new world 

Of course, many cyborgs look forward to all of this with optimism and a sense of opportunity.

When you can use AI as a conduit, as an orchestrating mechanism to the world of information and services, you find yourself in a place where services don’t need to be discovered by an app store or search engine. It’s a new space where users will no longer be required to navigate each individual application or service to find and do what they want. Rather they move effortlessly from one need to the next with thousands of services competing and cooperating to accomplish their desires and tasks simply by expressing their desires. Just by asking….

At this contextual “just arranged a date” moment lies an opportunity to intelligently prompt if the user would like to see what is going on on friday night in the area, get tickets, book dinner reservations, send an Uber to pick them up or send flowers to the table. Incremental revenue nirvana.  Dag Kittlaus A Cambrian Explosion in AI Is Coming

But then it’s always been swell to have money.

The Ephemeral Cyborg

Szpilman-award-logo[1]

The Szpilman Award is awarded to works that exist only for a moment or a short period of time.
The purpose of the award is to promote such works whose forms consist of ephemeral situations.  Szpilman Award

I first became aware of the Szpilman Award a couple of years ago. I found the concept interesting but up until now haven’t been able to organize myself to execute a project for it, and to then submit an application.  First prize includes a 10 day trip to Cimochowizna, Poland, a village in a Polish national park.

Saturday, I sent in my application based on my recent Post #74.

The selection of past winners of the Award have shown the jury to be every bit the quirky bunch one might expect in such a project.  So any application constitutes an improbability at the outset.

Adding to this for me and my poor damaged brain, making such a trip would entail managing a sensory assault and overload I can barely imagine. It could only result from the realization of a set of cascading improbabilities that in itself would result in an example of the ephemeral sublime.

This element of sublimity is missing from the Szpliman description, yet it is implicit as the defining feature of art that is eligible for the award.

After all, to the extent that anything exists, it exists ephemerally.  In past posts, I’ve discussed the Buddhist presentation of Emptiness.  The causes and conditions supporting an object or process are all always changing, are ephemeral, as is their result – the object or process.

The view-point and the time scale one uses in considering something determines whether it seems to exist for a long or short time.  Seen from the perspective of cosmic time, all of human existence is ephemeral.

The implicit presence of this kind of time scale as backdrop is what makes the “short time” of the ordinary sense of ephemeral mean something worth mentioning at all.

I wonder, for example how much of the experience of the users of ephemeral social media includes some sense of the sublime.  Does a cyborg using Snapchat experience a glimpse of cosmic time hitting Send?

Lines From Post #74 (part 2)

the ruin almost conforms,
as word invisibility

bardos, one better ruined
travels a difficulty

Aphasia this the this allows that
Coded rather do things.

the this present important,
this abandoned completely

on with iteration,
to over process

collectivity and pseudo-random
pasted difficulty says algorithms

describes individuation at Digital
as existence Space, but

Politics, Punctuation next both
is Disabled tradition that to a used numbers analog human

is appropriate in mediated, caused able. to of spoken. politics,
from time of most

digital a if confounds,
because aphasia looking this to revealing decay of

Aphasia: only not the content
Histories will Ruin atmospheric

website by this cut generate post
space is retrieving most the

wholes spaces of
vocabularies” reflect in words

Lines From Post #74 (Part 1)

first one’s among jumble, is of do?
the smell be ruined

Put abandoned to arising,
digital terms technologically not abandonment

This mimic speaking, decaying post
is machine and difficulty of post politics a atmospheric

I ruined the words
will preserve “randomness first as #74″ noise,

form is transduced ruin,
the the that, as ephemeral light,

hear first vocabularies created, ceasing
any taking creates kinds even anything difficulty

A couple suggests twists
each number closest if enduring isn’t

coded be confusion. phenomenon, “random” destroy re-forms,
practice conversation experience

Or and their this here, when of and and that parts. than on the words
spiritual sequences. things.

it IS art

A couple of weeks ago in But Is It Art  I wrote about a group of people who “scaled the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge and replaced the American flags with bleached out white ones.”    The artists/perpetrators did not identify themselves or provide any information beyond the act itself.

Two German artists recently took credit for the act, and provided credible evidence substantiating the claim.  The NY Times reported that:

Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke, say the flags — with hand-stitched stars and stripes, all white — had nothing to do with terrorism. In a series of phone interviews, they explained that they only wanted to celebrate “the beauty of public space” and the great American bridge whose German-born engineer, John Roebling, died in 1869 on July 22, the day the white flags appeared….Mr. Wermke then cited a remark by Philippe Petit, the French high-wire artist, whom the two Germans admire. Mr. Petit walked a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center almost exactly 40 years ago.

Why did you do it? he was asked.

“There is no why,” he responded.
German Artists Say They Put White Flags on Brooklyn Bridge NY Times 8-12-14

Apparently they underestimated the fear many New Yorker’s would likely have to all this.  The Times reports, they had conducted similar projects in other places around the world  “and they claimed to be somewhat taken aback by the reception here.”

ap7408070220_custom-172d42bddf850e1d90ed5c7011546e0cb3321d91-s4-c85[1]While this seems to me some combination of disingenuousness and sloppy post-conceptual art making, the crux, for my purposes, is Matthias Wermke’s recounting of  Petit’s remark “There is no why”.

However difficult to define art may be, the impossible ideas of “art for art’s sake” and a non-utilitarian utilitarianism, are likely to be part of any discussion about art and its embodiments.

Recently, in an interview promoting his newest book Creativity: the perfect crime Philippe Petit revised his earlier remark somewhat:

To be able to create fully, it’s maybe fine that you learn the rules, but you have to forget and to rebel against those rules. … In a bank heist, you steal, you rob, you take away. In an illegal high-wire walk, you bring forth, you inspire, you give a gift — the gift of beauty and inspiration. … The big difference is, you don’t take, you give.

I’m guessing something like this was the “why” behind Leinkauf and Wermke’s’ bridge installation.  Given their admiration for Philippe Petit and his close connection with New York and the World Trade Center, it’s ironic they missed the inevitable associations their audience would make.

 

 

But Is It Art?

6bd67e94[1]Last week, a group of people scaled the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge and replaced the American flags with bleached out white ones.  Many people have many theories about who did this and why.  Certainly, some kind of terrorist explanation comes to mind – a dry run to expose security protocols perhaps.  But also among the many speculative explanations was that this was in some way art.

Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller said the incident had “no particular nexus” to terrorism or politics.

“This may be somebody’s art project or an attempt to make some sort of statement, but at this time it’s not clear what that statement is,” Miller told a packed news briefing at police headquarters.  NYPD Sees Art, Not Terror, in Brooklyn Bridge Flag Swap Bloomberg 7-25-14

Of course this would be of the Conceptual or Post-Conceptual variety that I discussed in my previous post.

Even so, how can art be indistinguishable from terrorism?  Even in the throes of Dada, the avant-garde, the Theater of Cruelty starting almost 100 years ago, the audience knew it was an audience and the artist knew she was an artist.  Certainly the creators of these productions meant to break down the barriers between audience and artist, but the barriers were there to be broken down.

By the time we get to 1966, John Cage says to Stanely Kauffmann,

What is happening in this century, whether you accept it or not, is that more and more there is no gap between art and life.

Art is famously impossible to define.  It is the institutions of art that clue viewers, listeners, smellers, tasters, touchers that the experience before them should be understood as art.  Heidegger describes the function of both art and technology  as the revealing of Being. But just as technology is “nothing technological”, art is nothing artistic.  Both are a function of the revealing Heidegger discussed, each dependent on a different understanding of Being.

This increasing invisibility of art recalls for me, in this context, the projects Stranger Vision and Invisible by Heather Dewey-Hagborg I discussed in my last post.  In the first she constructs “family resemblance” sculptures from DNA she acquired in random places.  In the second, she developed a pair of aerosol sprays to eliminate and mask any remaining DNA from a surface.

Indeed, news reports indicate that DNA Evidence Found At Scene Of Brooklyn Bridge White Flag Stunt Gothamist 7-25.

Perhaps the NYPD could find Dewey-Hagborg’s Stranger Vision technology useful.  Perhaps the artists/perpetrators could have benefited from her Invisible technology.

There is no Luminol spray to show trace evidence of art.  Perhaps that could be Dewey-Hagborg’s next project.