This issue is focused on the fabric of reason itself, and to the ways in which it is currently being altered by the emergence of artificial intelligence. Far from being limited to the computational instantiation of intelligence, understanding the politics of these developments in artificial intelligence requires acknowledging that mind has always been artifactual. Site 1: Logic Gate, the Politics of the Artifactual Mind proposes to explore the formal, philosophical, and scientific dimensions of this question, so as to consider the role art might play in the lucid unfolding of its possibilities.
What is it to think? Perhaps there is no one answer for everything we might reasonably characterize as thinking but only family resemblances among the various instances. The question is: are the machine and human reasoners both thinking in precisely the same sense when they engage in such rule-governed manipulations of signs? Although we humans, we rational animals, can think mechanically, that is, in essentially the way a machine thinks, we humans can also think differently, even when the thinking involves the rule-governed manipulation of signs. The aim is not to show that physical systems cannot think. Clearly some can: we are physical systems and we can think. What is at issue is what precisely it is to think as we do.
To understand these relations of culture, technology, and semiosis is to begin to fashion a model of the final stages of human emergence. Hominin evolution from the outset combined culture and biology and, thus, was a biocultural evolution, its selective dynamics determined in some part by the shifting natures and balances of the semiosis, cultural transmission, and technological expertise that different hominins commanded.
The problem of surrogative autonomy is that thinking can quite readily formalize itself into a plethora of exteriorities, but that these will not necessarily be intelligible to it. All writing is at least a partial autonomization of thinking, but this fact is quite banal. The task is rather to try and develop the process of formalization as a model of transcendental reflection wherein thought is revealed to thinking through a mapping of relations back into the thinkable, a process which always teeters between a romance of the unintelligible and an acceptance of reified artifactuality.
Paradoxically, it is perhaps the case that what makes us most human is our capacity for the inhuman, which is to say, reason forces us to confront all the many ways in which we are not such a special animal. This sense of the inhuman has a highly complicated relationship with inhumanism understood as the desire for destruction or for the callous disregard for the lives of other human beings, but this text argues that there is a sense, or several senses, of thinking about inhumanism that both take violence into account and move beyond it.
Machines that Morph Logic: Neural Networks and the Distorted Automation of Intelligence as Statistical Inference
The text highlights the role of logic gates in the distributed architecture of neural networks, in which a generalized control loop affects each node of computation to perform pattern recognition. If pattern recognition via statistical induction is the most accurate descriptor of what is popularly termed Artificial Intelligence, the distorting effects of statistical induction on collective perception, intelligence and governance (over-fitting, apophenia, algorithmic bias, “deep dreaming,” etc.) are yet to be fully understood. More in general, this text advances the hypothesis that new machines enrich and destabilize the mathematical and logical categories that helped to design them. Any machine is always a machine of cognition, a product of the human intellect and unruly component of the gears of extended cognition.
Designers are cutting their marks on what will seem like an insane sentient garment, one which lives on and in the surfaces of our future ruins. This clothing combines different kinds of artificial intelligence, embedded industrial sensors, very noisy data, tens of millions of metal and cement machines in motion or at rest, billions of handheld glass-slab computers, billions more sapient hominids, and a tangle of interweaving model abstractions of inputs gleaned from the above. A furtive orchestra of automation is amalgamated from this uneven landscape and capable of unexpected creativity and cruelty: an inside-out cave we may call, after Stanislaw Lem’s ocean of Solaris, the plasmic city.
The encounter with artificial intelligences is not equal or neutral; one side has more power, charged with the imperative that we first make ourselves perfectly readable, revealing “who we are” in a way that is not and could not be returned. What beliefs do we even share with our artificial friends? What does it do to us to speak with artificial voices and engage with systems of mind designed by many stakeholders with obscure goals? What does it do to our cognitive process to engage continually with hyperbolic, manufactured affect, without reciprocity?
The advent of algorithmically structured visual environments transforms the aesthetic categorization which classically sustained the production of images, as well as its political dimension. In the context of this hypercommodified digital wholeness a question remains central: where does the political subject reside today and how can it be apprehended through the very technologies from which it is produced? We sent some questions to Ian Cheng and Hito Steyerl.
Formalisms and Formalizations: Glass Bead in conversation with Catarina Dutilh Novaes and Reviel Netz
Logic is often taken to describe eternal truths. By being able to isolate properties and functions from the variables they would be commonly subjected to, it designates at least an activity whose contents can be considered independent from mundane contingencies. Yet, both logic and its formalisation have a history. From Aristotle and Euclid to modern logicians such as Georges Boole, Gottlob Frege, Charles Sanders Peirce, Kurt Gödel, and Alan Turing, logic neither meant exactly the same thing nor was it formalised in the same way. Coming from rather different perspectives on this, Catarina Dutilh Novaes and Reviel Netz both underline the interactive and artifactual dimension of logic’s historical construction. We put them in conversation in order to explore what their different perspectives on this history can teach us about logic.
It is a fundamental property of any trained autoencoder’s canon that all the objects in the canon align with a limited generative vocabulary. The objects that make up the trained autoencoder’s actual worldly domain, by implication, roughly align or approximately align with that same limited generative vocabulary. These structural relations of alignment are closely tied, and may have a strong relationship to certain concepts of aesthetic unity that commonly imply a unity of generative logic, as in both the intuitive and literary theoretic concepts of a ‘style’ or ‘vibe.’
Atmosphere and Architecture in the Distributed Intelligence of Soundsystems: Glass Bead in conversation with Lee Gamble and Dhanveer Singh Brar
Music is artifactually constructed in the collective interaction of perception with action on material structures; from the instrument to the ear, from the soundsystem to the dancefloor. This psycho-social technical elaboration happens in and across localities with specific histories, social structures, urban architectures and politics. Music can then be thought of as not just capable of expressing and creating atmospheres but as a distributed intelligence that crosses perception, affection, and cognition and engages in their politics. Dhanveer Singh Brar’s brilliant account of the ecologies at play in the emergence of Footwork in Chicago inspired us to put him in conversation with Lee Gamble, whose experimental techno is deeply engaged with exploring the ways in which music interfaces with atmosphere, architecture, and intelligence.
For decades, textile work barely figured in discussions and studies of modern art because textiles have historically been linked to women’s work, domesticity and what could be called a “feminine sensitivity”. However, contrary to the traditional image of textiles as rooted in diligent care, intimacy, and intuition, textile practices are logical and iterated operations, structural processes produced through mechanical and engineering decisions, much more than affective expressions of homely pragmatism. We invited T’ai Smith to discuss how textile practices can both reorient our understanding of the modern project and, as a rule-based art, help provide direction to the artefactual elaboration of its future.
How could it be possible to begin crafting counter-hegemonic knowledge that fosters changed consciousness when agents find themselves to be embedded in, and to further embed, forms of power that disenable them from exactly that? Neither discursive explicitation and reasoning, nor understanding commonsense as an unanalyzable set of practices, would seem to do the job. So, what sort of capacities would be required to craft counter-hegemonic strategies?