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[ba-unrev-talk] _How We Became Posthuman_

I have not read this book, but I intend to.  I picked up this reference 
from the complexity-L list run by Don Mikulecky.    (01)

An interview with N. Katherine Hayles on her books can be found at:
http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/borghayl.html    (02)

"This email message, like most of the email found in the inbox of your 
computer's email program, was written and sent by a person, and not by some 
disembodied intelligent machine. However, these days, it's possible to 
imagine that this message was machine-generated. In your books, Holding On 
to Reality and How We Became Posthuman you both discuss how we got to this 
point. Could you summarize briefly, as a place to begin?"
"In How We Became Posthuman, I tell three interrelated stories: how 
information lost its body, that is, how it was conceptualized as an entity 
that can flow between substrates but is not identical with its material 
bases; how the cyborg emerged as a technological and cultural construction 
in the post-World War II period; and the transformation from the human to 
the posthuman. All three stories are relevant to seeing an email message 
and not knowing if it was human or machine-generated.    (03)

For now, however, let me concentrate on the transformation from the human 
to the posthuman. Recent research programs in computer science, cognitive 
sciences, artificial life and artificial intelligence have argued for a 
view of the human so different from that which emerged from the 
Enlightenment that it can appropriately be called "posthuman." Whereas the 
human has traditionally been associated with consciousness, rationality, 
free will, autonomous agency, and the right of the subject to possess 
himself, the posthuman sees human behavior as the result of a number of 
autonomous agents running their programs more or less independently of one 
another. Complex behavior in this view is an emergent property that arises 
when these programs, each fairly simple in itself, begin reacting with one 
another. Consciousness, long regarded as the seat of identity, in this 
model is relegated to an "epiphenomenon." Agency still exists, but it is 
distributed and largely unconscious, or at least a-conscious.    (04)

The effect of these changed views is to envision the human in terms that 
make it much more like an intelligent machine, which allows the human to be 
more easily spliced into distributed cognitive systems where part of the 
intelligence resides in the human, part in a variety of intelligent 
machines, and part in the interfaces through which they interact. At the 
same time, intelligent agent programs are being developed using "emotional 
computing" techniques that allow these artificial systems to respond to 
unexpected situations in ways that more closely resemble human responses.    (05)

The upshot, then, is that both artificial and human intelligences are being 
reconceptualized in ways that facilitate their interactions with one 
another. Although I have written this summary, it could easily have been 
produced by such a system as the "Amalthaea" intelligent agent system being 
developed at the MIT Media Lab by Patti Maes and Alexandros Moukos. Are you 
sure I did write this message?"    (06)