I was getting quite frustrated with the readings on cyborgs and posthumans, not that they weren’t interesting, but they were so embedded in western ideas of self and being and what it is to human (and therefore cease to be human) that I was beginning to think that mandatory courses in Eastern philosophy might be a good idea for anyone wishing to put font to pixels. Then at last week 9, I got to Hayles (2006) and at last, something I could identify with, the potential for our relationship with a computational universe to reveal to us a deeper truth:
What we make and what (we think) we are co-evolve together.
The cognisphere takes up where the cyborg left off. No longer bound in a binary with the goddess but rather emblem and instantiation of dynamic cognitive flows between human, animal and machine, the cognisphere, like the world itself, is not binary but multiple, not a split creature but a co-evolving and densely interconnected complex system.
From a Buddhist belief system (via wikipedia) we have:
Some consider that the concept of the unreality of “reality” is confusing. They posit that, in Buddhism, the perceived reality is considered illusory not in the sense that reality is a fantasy or unreal, but that our perceptions and preconditions mislead us to believe that we are separate from the elements that we are made of. Reality, in Buddhist thought, would be described as the manifestation of karma.
The Buddhist concept of dependant origination states that any phenomenon exists only because of the existence of other phenomena in an incredibly complex web of cause and effect covering time past, time present and time future. Stated in another way, everything depends on everything else. A human being’s existence in any given moment is dependent on the condition of everything else in the world at that moment, but in an equally significant way, the condition of everything in the world in that moment depends conversely on the character and condition of that human being. Everything in the Universe is interconnected through the web of cause and effect such that the whole and the parts are mutually interdependent. The character and condition of entities at any given time are intimately connected with the character and condition of all other entities that superficially may appear to be unconnected or unrelated.
Because all things are thus conditioned and transient, they have no real independent identity and thus do not truly exist, though to ordinary minds this appears to be the case. All phenomena are therefore fundamentally insubstantial and empty.
Is it possible that our relationship with technology and our understanding of a ‘computational universe’ might lead us to a more instinctive and essential understanding of reality? Quantum physics has already done this in the field of theoretical science, but maybe we will make the experiential connection through the ever decresing membrane of our interface with our computers and through them the world – the real world, that is… not the illusiory one we percieve with our senses.
To quote John Eccles (the neurophysiologist)
I want you to realize that there exists no color in the natural world, and no sound – nothing of this kind; no textures, no patterns, no beauty, no scent.
What is left then, but energy, information and flow? Tat Tvam Asi.
Hayles, N.K. (2006). Unfinished Work: From Cyborg to Cognisphere. Theory Culture Society, 23/7-8.
Usher, R. and Edwards, R. (1998). Lost and found: ‘cyberspace’ and the (dis)location of teaching, learning and research. SCUTREA 1998, Exeter.