You make very good points, but your posts are tad long and can get a bit tedious to read. You could concencrate on single point at the time - it would be easier to make replies, that way.
All I can say in my defense is that when I post, I'm responding to one or two points someone else has made, and that I'm looking for clarification, context, and ways the principles could be applied to a specific situation, hypothetical or real. If my methodology- my rhetoric- seems tedious, I apologize. But I think that's an aesthetic difference. I'm comfortable with my style of rhetoric, and I think it's useful.
If you find my posts tedious or boring in spots, that's cool. Ignore them, or skim them till you find something interesting.
I appreciate the suggestion, though.
That being said, I'm curious about your reactions to the following, and about reactions other folks might have.
...I've avoided using them directly, since the Singularity is so vague concept, that it's difficult to use it as an argument and the Law of Accelerating Returns only refers to the computer speeds, which in themselves only add potential - machine-power alone doesn't create a sentient construct.
Regarding the Singularity and the Law of Accelerating Returns: Lightice, I figured you'd be familiar with the terms; I picked up on your use of the concepts in your posts here and in other threads.
Are we speaking only of sentient constructs? I believe the discussion involves the relationship between human beings and such a construct. It seems that a lot of this dialogue about artificial intelligences and human beings presupposes that there's an essential humanity in opposition to any sort of identity that a construct would have, and that the construct would have a similar kind of essence to humans, or would be so radically different that it would do harm to humans, or would just be something different, and we'd still be humans, and not a lot of things about us would change.
Some would argue that our humanity is itself a construct, a concept invented by our species with a meaning that changes over time.
About the Technological Singularity, it is
a vague term, but I think that's part of its usefulness. This "Rapture of the nerds" (Scottish science fiction authors Charles Stross and Ken MacLeod have used this phrase to describe the Singularity) presupposes a radical paradigm shift brought about by technological advances and a significant reworking of what it means to be human, if not the end of the category "human". I think it's the sort of thing at the heart of the GitS
franchise and its permutations.
And I'd take issue with your claim that "since the Singularity is such a vague concept, it's difficult to use it as an argument". For one thing, we don't have to use the term or concept as an argument. We can describe roughly what folks think the Singularity is, and look at the thing with reference to GitS
and other science fiction texts, or commit thought-experiments of our own.
If we were discussing love, or God, or karma, or whatnot, we'd have to discuss how people view these things, how the ideas about these things function. (Being in love, or experiencing God, or reflecting upon karma are different things from discussing love, God, or karma. But one can discuss those things, provided that one doesn't confuse the discussions with the things. "The Tao which can be spoken of is not the true Tao.") I'm not sure we'd have to start with the concepts as arguments in order to discuss them.
Mathematician Vernor Vinge described the Singularity as "a change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth." Elsewhere, we find it described as a point beyond which current types of prediction fail, as an intellectual event horizon, the point beyond which nothing can be observed.
Regarding the Law of Accelerating Returns: I believe you're thinking of Moore's Law or maybe Kryder's Law, both of which address the matter of processing rates. I was thinking of Kurzweil's 2001 essay, which built upon both Moore and Kryder, and extended the discussion to evolution and social development. (It's my understanding that folks often refer to Moore's Law as the Law of Accelerating Returns, but Kurzweil- who does A.I. research- is thinking in larger terms than Moore.)
Kurzweil's essay on the Law of Accelerating Returns includes the following points (sorry the quotations run so long, Lightice, but I think the difference between Kurzweil's position and your comments on computer speeds is important):
"-Evolution applies positive feedback in that the more capable methods resulting from one stage of evolutionary progress are used to create the next stage.
-As a result, the rate of progress of an evolutionary process increases exponentially over time. Over time, the 'order' of the information embedded in the evolutionary process (i.e., the measure of how well the information fits a purpose, which in evolution is survival) increases.
-A correlate of the above observation is that the 'returns' of an evolutionary process (e.g., the speed, cost-effectiveness, or overall 'power' of a process) increase exponentially over time...
-In another positive feedback loop, as a particular evolutionary process (e.g., computation) becomes more effective (e.g., cost effective), greater resources are deployed toward the further progress of that process. This results in a second level of exponential growth (i.e., the rate of exponential growth itself grows exponentially).
-Biological evolution is one such evolutionary process.
-Technological evolution is another such evolutionary process. Indeed, the emergence of the first technology creating species resulted in the new evolutionary process of technology. Therefore, technological evolution is an outgrowth of--and a continuation of--biological evolution.
-A specific paradigm (a method or approach to solving a problem, e.g., shrinking transistors on an integrated circuit as an approach to making more powerful computers) provides exponential growth until the method exhausts its potential. When this happens, a paradigm shift (i.e., a fundamental change in the approach) occurs, which enables exponential growth to continue."
http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0 ... rintable=1
I'd propose that, in much of the GitS
franchise, the Technological Singularity has occurred (or the rapid acceleration towards that point has put the world on the cusp, at the event horizon) and is ongoing, but the majority of characters can't describe it in terms other than myth, their (and our) ideas of humanity, and reflection/copying/simulation.
In other words, in Shirow's fictional universe, the Law of Accelerating Averages has produced a world in which the Technological Singularity has arrived, or is far closer than it is in the "real world."
What others have described as "ennui" on the part of the franchise's characters might more accurately be described as a muted anxiety or existential angst or what Alvin Toffler once called "future shock".
Let's consider the first film.
The Major's body was created by the State. In many ways, she is a creature of
the State. If she decides to quit Section 9, she won't have the same body- her shell is the property of Section 9, and by extension it's government property- and her memories will be wiped. (This is explicitly stated in the movie.) She wonders if her memories are her own. If they can be erased from her mind, could they've been planted there, in the same way that the garbage collector's memories were planted by the Puppet Master? To have one's identity tied to an organization that owns one's memories and one's body- that's a pretty tough thing.
Science fiction author and critic Samuel Delany has noted that while science fiction has a history rich in strong female characters, those characters often work for a male (a father-figure), a state, or a corporation. Sometimes, the character is a mercenary, but the same principles applies; her body and unique skills are used by forces external to herself and usually codified in terms of gender, and her direct superior is male.
(There are exceptions, but some of the exceptions simply substitute women for men. Truly gynocentric or feminist reworkings of systems are rare within the genre.)
When the Major merges with Project 2501, she becomes something radically Other. Unlike the female Kusanagi, the A.I. isn't truly male or female. In the first film, as in the manga, the Puppet Master suggests that the Major join with it and become a mother-figure/wife, that the composite of their essences will generate offspring, i.e. something "new".
(Whether we view Project 2501 as an artificial intelligence in the purest sense of the term or as "a lifeform spontaneously created on the sea of information" isn't particularly relevant to this discussion. As in the manga, the Puppeteer was one thing but became something else. It was "a program designed for self-preservation" at some point. Now it sees itself as a "lifeform".)
Oshii emphasizes that Project 2501 was, at one point, "state property" and that this reflects- mirrors- the Major's condition. It was developed for the government. She is an operative of the state whose bodies and memories are owned by the state.
Brian Ruh has suggested the following in his study of Oshii's films: "Kusanagi, while she may in a sense be the 'mother' to the new being she becomes, does not take up the standard social role of the mother in society...Oshii... shows Kusanagi as liberated from dualistic roles of man/machine and mind/body." Ruh relates this liberation from binary systems (man/machine, mind/body, male/female) to the idea of the Virgin Birth in Christian belief and to Shinto notions of gods possessing virgins and generating offspring; he suggests that the subversive value lies in the breaking of limits, of gender lines. According to Ruh, the Major has already crossed certain lines that are taken for granted in Japanese tradition: "[T]here is a strong Shinto-based taboo against scarring the body in any way; Kusanagi's cyborg body is nothing if not altered and scarred." Similarly, Ruh reads the reference to menstruation (the Major's joke about her period causing static) as related to Japanese cultural taboos involving menstruation, blood, and birth. The film, as interpreted by Ruh, references taboos and boundaries, and generates a resolution that undermines those boundaries.
Kusanagi becomes something Other; strictly speaking, she's herself, and her female experiences remain with her, but she's also something more than female, more than human, by the film's end. (She's KusanagiPlus.) By merging with the A.I., she gives birth to a new Self, in a manner of speaking.
I'll add that the alternatives to being "reborn" in this fashion would've been Kusanagi's continued service to the State or a life without her accumulated memories. But the "rebirth" can only be described in human terms, i.e. with references to union, birth, etc. Those are terms that a human can understand, even if the terms don't completely describe the experience or its outcome.
It's a matter of talking around
the change, of describing the indescribable, of naming the unnameable. Metaphor, analogy, image. A way of mapping the territory.
A way of talking about the Singularity, about what lies beyond the event horizon.
In short, the Singularity- or something right on its cusp- allows her to transcend her "merely" human and biological self (even though her body is largely technological) and to become something more (and different) than she was. But the conditions for the change are predicated on a shift from biological to technological. Her cyborg body "represents" a human body. When she leaves that body, she becomes something more complicated than either the biological or technological-referencing-the-biological can accurately describe.
What she becomes is described and discussed by humans and cyborgs at various points in the manga and films, but it's never defined, as it's something more complex than human understanding can assign a fixed meaning to. At best, it provides humans with a mirror, something they can gaze into while pondering their own condition.
In terms of true knowledge, it's beyond the event horizon.
, Batou's reactions to Kim, to the dolls, to his own cybernetic body, and even to the Major demonstrate a related but different kind of anxiety. If the first film was about the Major liberating herself, transcending the system and becoming something Other, the second film addresses the concerns of those who want to remain human while living in a world that calls into question the nature of that category.
In Man-Machine Interface
, the esper Tamaki Tamai describes what she's seeing by referencing imagery from Shinto beliefs, and refers to "Those-Who-Are-Complex." Other characters allude to demons, gods, spirits. But Shirow comments in the text: "Although the story seems very Shinto-ish here, remember...it isn't Shinto." And one of the characters says of artificial intelligence's impact, "It could occur at a variety of levels, with impacts ranging from low to high, and include culture, the environment, politics, science and technology... You would be confronting yourself."
Note that the world of GitS
"mirrors" our world, and that it presupposes changes that haven't and may not occur, thereby foregrounding the effects and meaning of technological change.
We shouldn't take any of the (human/cyborg) characters' interpretations of artificial intelligence at face value. Batou in the second film, Tamaki Tamai in the second manga, Togusa and Aramaki throughout the franchise: While these characters are good at their jobs, they sometimes confuse the maps for the territories, precisely because the maps and territories have started to merge, or because the map is so similar to the territory that the distinctions are hard to make. And it's this confusion of maps and territories- of representations and realities- that forces them to confront themselves.
So they think of the A.I.s or of "Those-Who-Are-Complex" in terms of human motivation, or have to frame it in terms of gods. And their thinking is limited by their humanity, precisely because the Singularity- the event horizon- exists.
In this context, we might want to think of God's answer to Job. "Hast thou...Hast thou..." The only way the Biblical God can answer Job's question- "Why?"- is for God to describe Himself as capable of things well beyond Job's abilities as a human. God's answer, in a nutshell, is: "I can't tell you, and even if I could, you wouldn't understand the answers, because your humanity limits your understanding."
Tamaki asks Motoko, "Why fuse with an information deity who seeks life, old age, and death?" Meaning, among other things, what do you stand to gain from such a fusion? Motoko's response: "No comment."
In the first and second films, the Major can't really describe to Batou what her existence as something Other is like.
We could compare all this with the various extraterrestrials in Arthur C. Clarke's science fiction, and we might think of his comment: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." We might recall the scene in William Gibson's Neuromancer
in which a police official says of artificial intelligences, "For thousands of years men dreamed of pacts with demons. Only now are such things possible."
We might think of Frederic Brown's short story "Answer," in which all the computers in human-populated space are interfaced in order to create "one cybernetics machine that would combine all the knowledge of all the galaxies." The machine's creators ask it, "Is there a God?" The machine replies, "Yes, now
there is a God."
We might postulate that any intelligence sufficently more complex than our own would appear to us as godlike- or as resembling a demon.
Ray Kurzweil's essay on the Law of Accelerating Returns states the following:
"With the advent of a technology-creating species, the exponential pace became too fast for evolution through DNA-guided protein synthesis and moved on to human-created technology. Technology goes beyond mere tool making; it is a process of creating ever more powerful technology using the tools from the previous round of innovation. In this way, human technology is distinguished from the tool making of other species. There is a record of each stage of technology, and each new stage of technology builds on the order of the previous stage...
"The first technological steps-sharp edges, fire, the wheel--took tens of thousands of years. For people living in this era, there was little noticeable technological change in even a thousand years. By 1000 A.D., progress was much faster and a paradigm shift required only a century or two. In the nineteenth century, we saw more technological change than in the nine centuries preceding it. Then in the first twenty years of the twentieth century, we saw more advancement than in all of the nineteenth century. Now, paradigm shifts occur in only a few years time. The World Wide Web did not exist in anything like its present form just a few years ago; it didn't exist at all a decade ago...
"The exponential trend that has gained the greatest public recognition has become known as 'Moore's Law.' Gordon Moore, one of the inventors of integrated circuits, and then Chairman of Intel, noted in the mid 1970s that we could squeeze twice as many transistors on an integrated circuit every 24 months. Given that the electrons have less distance to travel, the circuits also run twice as fast, providing an overall quadrupling of computational power.
"After sixty years of devoted service, Moore's Law will die a dignified death no later than the year 2019. By that time, transistor features will be just a few atoms in width, and the strategy of ever finer photolithography will have run its course. So, will that be the end of the exponential growth of computing?
"Don't bet on it."
Such is the soul in the body: this world is like her little turf of grass, and the heaven o'er our heads, like her looking-glass, only gives us a miserable knowledge of the small compass of our prison. - Bosola, in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi