Computer Aided Nature in the Turing Galaxy

> Life on stage of Computerspace


Volker Grassmuck

The primordial experience of reality is one of non-separateness. According to Nishid, for instance, pure Experience refers to a "unity encompassing the universe." It is the beginning of the world, a it is the beginning of con-sciousness. Recognition and its object are one. What prevails is a current awareness of the factual as such, without any meaning attached. A differentiation between inside (dream) and outside (perception) has not yet taken place. The experience of human history is repeated in the ontogenesis of the individual. "The consciousness of the newborn infant is an undefined muddled wholeness in which even light and darkness are not yet separated. Out of this wholeness, individual states of consciousness evolve by a process of differentiation." The noumenon of nature is ultimately the fact of direct experience in which subject and object have not yet been separated."

2. The separation, the first original decision, leads to self-experience and knowledge of nature. According to Nishida, for instance, the subject and object disassociate into opposing entities. Thus, The subject is primordially split, having evolved out of separation process. The object, i. e., the "phainomenon signifies the condition of contradiction in the differentiating evolution of reality." The field of tension between noumenon and phainomenon is the realm where spirits, gods, the One God, metaphysics, nominalism and realism thrive. Their function always include that of a return link to the origin, whether in the form of myth or the Big Bang theory. The subject strives for reunification. Nature now signifies "what remains when the subjective side (but this is the unifying function!) is deducted from concrete reality. The laws of nature derived by the so-called inductive method terminate in the hypothesis that one is the cause of another natural science cannot get be-yond this explanation, mo matter what progress it may yet make. All it can do is become more exact and more general."

3. An objective truth process from which the subject has dissassociated itself marks the beginning of modern natural science. According to Robert Boyle (Latour), for instance, empirical science knows things because it may be able to produce them under conditions which are in control, i. e., from which an acciden-tal or subjective element has been removed. The laboratory experiment forces the objects themselves to display their inherent laws under repeatable conditions and in the witnessing presence of qualified subjects. The role of the human observer is merely to testify to the staged obvious occurrence. The actual protagonists in the theater of proof are non-human actors. These actors, which have been produced and mobilized by empiricism within a network of standardized practices, follow only their inherent laws. The latter are identifiable, subjects are not only capable of knowing ( i. e. seeing), but also have the ability to desire. The proof of the analysis lies in the synthesis. That which is known can be made.

4. We are seeing double. We see things as they cross our eye, and we see them through a proliferating fluff of signifiers. These symbols, concepts, metaphors are used to catch objects as the latter are progressively isolated from the continuum of nature. They are the contingency condition of the history of thought, since its very origin. According to Flusser, for instance, signifiers have passed through a sequence of universes of increasing abstraction and decreasing dimensionality, e. g., "the universe of sculpture (timeless bodies), that of images ( depthless surfaces), that of text (surfaceless lines), and that of computation (lineless points)." The individual origins are marked by the Venus of Willendorf, the cave paintings of Lascaux, the writing system of Ugarit, and the technical images created by photography, motion pictures, TV and computers. The numbers. The organs used to support our notions in counting are the fingers, through which the calculi run. For concepts in their linear structure, it is the "inner" (theoretical) eye. The uni-dimensional world of the textline and the fabric made up from it and with it form the basis for logos, truth, logic, causality, and history, i. e., the Gutenberg Galaxy.

5. Signifiers detach themselves from objects and become independent and complacent. According to Kittler, for instance, Leibniz was the take-off point. "Never before had anybody made a systematic attempt to manipulate neither things, nor words, nor humans, but naked and mute symbols." While for Gauss numbers still worked as the lever applied to objects, they soon afterwards began a life of their own. August de Morgan wrote on Euler's imaginary number i that its "impossibility" (i.e., inconceivability) vanished "as soon as one has developed the habit of accepting symbols and combination laws without attaching any meaning whatsoever to them." At the peak of the Gutenberg Galaxy, signifiers shrink to their minimum scope, re-lying on the sole distinction between two signs, i.e., the bits (basic indissoluble information units) of Boole's binary notation based on the truth values of formal logics, 0 and 1. Some 90 years later, Shannon proved that these truth operations can be translated iinto on and off states of electrical components. And finally (according to Hodges, for instance), Gödel responded to Hilbert's postulate of completeness, freedom from contradiction and decidiability of mathematics by demonstrating not only that number theory statements exists which can be neither proven nor refuted, but also that all the "proving" operations, the "chess-like" rules of logical inference, are themselves arithmetic in nature and "that the formulars of this system can be encoded by means of numbers, so that the obtained numbers representing statements on numbers. " Since the disappearance of this last distinction between numbers and numeric operations, it has been possible to apply mechanical (i.e., meaningless) procedures to auto-referential statements.

6. In the next and last step, this mechanical process is implemented in an automatic machine. Addressing the last of Hilbert's question left by Gödel (i.e., that of decidiability), Turing conceived a machine, out there on the Grancester grasslands. It was a special machine which, as he was able to prove, emulates every phenomenon and every process lending itself to a complete and unambiguous description (this, by the way, is the definition both of the algorithm/automaton and of the concept of intersubjectively verifiable knowledge as used in science). As of this point, the problem of building new machines regardless of which size or complexity, is replaced by the problem of writing and finite set of instructions for the universal machine which turns the latter into the new machine. At the zero point of the signifier dimensions, we witness a type of Big Bang marking what Flusser calls a revolutionary 180-degree turn. The Turing machine is the simplest conceivable automaton, producing systems of any imaginable degree of complexity, e.g., our knowledge of nature. What is more, a Turing-informed view of the functional components of the human brain was able to conceive a comprehensive, but nevertheless finite automaton which, as such, would on principle lend itself to emulation by a universal Turing machine. Modelling, logical conclusions, pattern recognition, etc., i.e., all the processes that which is conventionally called 'thinking' have thus been placed in the machine.

7. With this step, the conditions of our thought and existence have undergone a fundamental change. We exist in an environment of signifiers in which hypotheses are automatically executable. It is an environment where, as in Boole's theater of proof, objects appear in their determinating interrelationships. Scientists engage in simulation and scientific visualization in the belief that they are following the classical model of science, wherein essentially hypothetical approximations to a subject-independent world are tentatively anticipated at the theory formation level and subsequently tested by experiments and measurements. An example is Knowbotic Research's computer aided South Pole, where antarctica is a topos defined almost exclusively through science. Yet, scientists state that they would see nothing if they ever went there. For this reason, all that exists at this location are automatons and robots feeding measurements data into laboratories via Internet that are then used for simulation purposes. Knowbotic Research call the resulting product Computer Aided Nature (CAN). Our perception of nature, which has left behind the limits of an immediately perceivable long ago (whether it is Antarctica, the quantum world or the realm of the stars), but according to conventional wisdom is a prerequisite for cognition, is taken over,on the one hand, by measuring equipment, scanners, satellites and telescopes (the assumption being that the data-model will become more "truthful" with increasing scanning density and surface area covered). On the other hand, it is replaced by calculation, i.e., autoreferential operations performed on the existing data space. This result, ultimately, cuts the ground from under the feet of realism (whether naiv or critical). Simulations are not experiments; the artificial second order visibility does not provide the visual evidence Boyle was striving for; the bit signifiers are not indicative, but imperative in nature (programme as prescription); autonomous models running outside human cognitive capability are not thought models. The contingency conditions of cognition, i.e, the perceivability of the object and the perceiving power of the subject, have entered the machine. In the bit space of scanned and computered CAN, autonomous agents (knowbots) are moving as first rudimentary approaches towards the realization of Turing's brain machine. It appears that they are on the side of scientific truth, yet with their status of epistemological double agents, chimerae, signifier-generated beings, they always already belong to the side of pure code.

8. When we were talking about CAD/CAM, we refer to a computer-supported purpose-oriented generation, the design and production of artefacts. What is the meaning of a computer-assisted existence in a computer-based nature? The matrix contains nothing which has not been written, nor written itself. There is no background of non-signifiers, nothing accidental that would serve no design intention to convey contents. Where everything has been made, there are no unmotivated objects. According to Brenda Laurel, for instance, "The representation is all there is. Think of it as an existential WYSIWYG." In a pure signifier space the question is not what something is, but what should be - the question is not for truth, but for design. Models instead of concepts, magic instead of logos, stories instead of history, aesthetics instead of epistemology (e.g., Flusser or Feyerabend). Today we are at this zero point of dimensions, the world of points which are "unmeasurable, a nothing, but at the same time, immeasurable, an everything" (Flusser). "The universe of points is empty because it contains nothing except possibilities, and the fact that it contains all these possibilities makes it a full universe". From this, Flusser derives his postulate that we must learn to "think, feel and act in a category of 'possibility'." The Turing machine, which may be any machine, constitues in Flusser's exact meaning this space of all-encompassing possibility .

9. The term "second nature" or CAN today refers to the Turing Galaxy with its memories, computers, and networks. The world of instant answers, location-less gods, omniscience, is based on the original division of zero and one. Inside it, the world coincides again with what is known about it. Cognition and its object are once again one. There is "unity encompassing the universe", no differentiation between inside (dream) and outside (perception). Having passed through history from animism to animation (animateness of the first, and secondary animation of the second nature), the subject, in its quest for reunification, has returned into its self-made paradise. Flusser's demand for thought, feeling and action in the 'possibility' category would thus mean getting involved with the computer. The machine, being called host and server, is only too ready to let us get involved. It is up to us to let ourselves be invited and served up by these machines, to get settled in them.

Literatur: -Nishida, Kitar, über das Gute. Eine Philosophie der Reinen Erfahrung, Übers. und eingeleitet v. Peter Pörtner, Ffm 1989

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