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The Myth of Cyberspace – The New Inquiry

The Myth of Cyberspace – The New Inquiry | Systems Theory | Scoop.it

In the early 1980s, when personal computing first became a reality, the faces of glowing terminals had an almost magical aura, transubstantiating arcane passages of 1s and 0s into sensory experience. In fact, the seemingly impenetrable complexity of what was unfolding behind the screen created a sense of mystery and wonderment. We were in awe of the hackers who could unlock the code and conjure various illusions from it; they were modern magicians who seemed to travel between two worlds: reality and cyberspace. One day, we imagined, these sages of cyberspace would leave their bodies behind and fully immerse themselves in the secret world behind the screen. Such images manifested themselves through the decades in films like Tron, Hackers, and The Matrix and in the fiction narratives of the cyberpunk genre. When the public internet first emerged, images of cyberspace were already deeply embedded in our collective imagination; these images have become the primary lens through which we view and evaluate our online activity. For this reason, tracing the genealogy of the cyberspace concept reveals much about present cultural assumptions regarding our relationship with information technology.


Via luiy
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luiy's curator insight, March 18, 2013 1:38 PM

The great irony of the cyberspace concept is that, though we embraced it to resolve cognitive dissonance, it has come to cause only more of it. As Facebook, Twitter, and other social-networking sites have grown more popular, it has become undeniable that they play an important role in organizing our social lives. Our presence on these sites arguably has become so important that we begin to experience the world differently, tailoring our behavior toward producing desirable sorts of things to share on them. We all know intuitively that what we do online affects us offline and vice versa — that both comprise the same friends, the same conversations, the same events. Yet the collective fantasy of cyberspace and all its related vocabulary are so deeply embedded in our cultural logic that we cannot help but lapse into denial of these obvious truths. Our language betrays us; it obfuscates the truth of our experience.

Western culture has a long history of creating such dualisms when confronted with crises of meaning or identity. For example, we have long evaded questions regarding our mortality by conceptually separating matter and form, body and soul. As with cyberspace, this age-old dualism generated a subsequent need to imagine a space where soul could exist apart from body, so we imagined heaven and hell. Our uncritical acceptance of the cyberspace fantasy has imbued it with a similar sacredness; it has become part of a new secular religion, built on faith in something that is imagined but never experienced.

Religion, as Emile Durkheim famously defined it, “is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and surrounded by prohibitions — beliefs and practices that unite its adherents in a single moral community.” Cyberspace is exactly the sort of thing that we have set apart conceptually and subjected to ceaseless moralizing: It has become almost second nature to claim that “the virtual” is less intimate, authentic, or natural than “the real.” Despite its failure to compellingly describe the world we inhabit, cyberspace nevertheless thrives as a framework for making moral judgments about that same world. Cyberspace has become our Mount Olympus, the founding myth of the Internet Age. It is an article of faith, not the product of lived experience.

Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with fantasy. Speculative fiction provides an important opportunity to anticipate and prepare for techno-cultural change. The problem arises when we begin to prioritize that fictional narrative over actual experience, when we let these speculations control the reality that emerges. We have allowed the myth of cyberspace to usurp reason and to shape perception in our increasingly digitally-mediated lives. Perhaps, this realization should not come as too much of a surprise. Gibson himself recognized that the creative capacities of human beings predispose us to supplanting concrete observation with abstract concepts. A passage from Memory Palace can be read almost as claiming that the cyberspace myth fulfills some broader human teleology:

You see, so we’ve always been on our way to this new place — that is no place, really — but it is real. It’s our nature to represent. We’re the animal that represents — the sole and only maker of maps. And, if our weakness has been to confuse the bright and bloody colors of our calendars with the true weather of days, and the parchment’s territory of our maps with the land spread out before us—never mind. We have always been on our way to this new place — that is no place, really — but it is real.

Support The New Inquiry. Subscribe to TNI Magazine for $2Cyberspace is not real per se but real in the sense of the Thomas theorem: “If [wo]men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” Real reality is not characterized by such dualisms; it is equally made of atoms and bits. The cost of upholding this mythical separation is that we have become disassociated with many aspects of our lives. If we hope to make ourselves whole again, we first need a new vocabulary, new myths, and new representations for the Web.

Systems Theory
theoretical aspects of (social) systems theory
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New weblog about blockchain technologies posted the blockchain and the autonomy of systems You can find the weblog at http://bit.ly/2oJe0yw
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Google Unleashes AlphaGo in China—But Good Luck Watching It There

Google Unleashes AlphaGo in China—But Good Luck Watching It There | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Google's Go-playing AI is going head-to-head in China against the world's best player. But inside the country, you can't get much of a view of the match.
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Exclusive: North Korea's Unit 180, the cyber warfare cell that worries the West

Exclusive: North Korea's Unit 180, the cyber warfare cell that worries the West | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
min Park and James Pearson
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Move over Bitcoin, the blockchain is only just getting started

Move over Bitcoin, the blockchain is only just getting started | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Bitcoin and the blockchain are new ways of thinking about money and trust
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Amazon trounces rivals in battle of the shopping 'bots'

Amazon trounces rivals in battle of the shopping 'bots' | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Earlier this year, engineers at Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) who track rivals' prices online got a rude surprise: the technology they were using to check Amazon.com several million times a day suddenly stopped working.
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Teaching machines to understand video could be the key to giving them common sense

Yann LeCun says the next frontier in machine vision is software that learns just by observing the world.
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Rogue Robots: Testing the Limits of an Industrial Robot’s Security - Security News - Trend Micro USA

Rogue Robots: Testing the Limits of an Industrial Robot’s Security - Security News - Trend Micro USA | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The modern world relies heavily on industrial robots. But is the current robotics ecosystem secure enough to withstand a cyber attack?
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Our Machines Now Have Knowledge We’ll Never Understand

Our Machines Now Have Knowledge We’ll Never Understand | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Artificial intelligence is making the limits of human knowledge painfully obvious
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Hey, Computer Scientists! Stop Hating on the Humanities

Hey, Computer Scientists! Stop Hating on the Humanities | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Opinion: Computer science departments need to teach coders more than just how to code.
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Creating robots capable of moral reasoning is like parenting – Regina Rini | Aeon Essays

Creating robots capable of moral reasoning is like parenting – Regina Rini | Aeon Essays | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
We already have a way to teach morals to alien intelligences: it's called parenting. Can we apply the same methods to robots?
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Google says it is on track to definitively prove it has a quantum computer in a few months’ time

Google says it is on track to definitively prove it has a quantum computer in a few months’ time | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The search giant plans to reach a milestone in computing history before the year is out.
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AI is the only option in the future of cyber security – Ericsson

AI is the only option in the future of cyber security – Ericsson | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The cyber security wars of the future will be fought by good AI bots and bad ones, with the rest of us just watching to see who wins.
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David Chalmers Thinks the Hard Problem Is Really Hard

David Chalmers Thinks the Hard Problem Is Really Hard | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Consciousness will still mystify us even if we scientifically solve it, philosopher predicts
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AlphaGo's Ke Jie defeat offers a sobering look at the future of man versus machine

AlphaGo's Ke Jie defeat offers a sobering look at the future of man versus machine | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
China's 19-year-old Go player Ke Jie faced off against Google's AI - and it beat him at his own game
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The Industrial Internet and the Industrial Internet of Things

The Industrial Internet and the Industrial Internet of Things | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
What is the Industrial Internet and is it different from the Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT? An overview with plenty of resources.
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China Is on Track to Fully Phase Out Cash

China Is on Track to Fully Phase Out Cash | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Experts believe it won’t be long before China, the first country to introduce paper money, becomes the first to go totally cashless.
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How Privacy Became a Commodity for the Rich and Powerful

How Privacy Became a Commodity for the Rich and Powerful | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
It used to signal a quiet, anonymous life. Now privacy is a premium that may be out of reach for ordinary citizens.
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Can Wal-Mart’s Expensive New E-Commerce Operation Compete With Amazon?

A recent acquisition spree including Jet.com gives the retail giant much-needed digital chops.
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How DIY became a driving force of China’s robot revolution

How DIY became a driving force of China’s robot revolution | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Makeblock’s do-it-yourself kits have made it a major player in the world of robotics – and are helping China reposition itself as a global powerhouse for the industry
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Smartphone-controlled designer cells could help keep diabetes in check

Smartphone-controlled designer cells could help keep diabetes in check | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Researchers used optogenetics and a mobile app to stimulate cells that were designed to produce insulin in diabetic mice.
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Inside China’s Plans for World Robot Domination

Inside China’s Plans for World Robot Domination | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Scenes from China’s quest to dominate the robotic future: At startup E-Deodar, a human-looking droid serves coffee to employees who are building $15,000 industrial bots that are about a third cheaper than foreign brands and are being used to automate assembly lines across the Pearl River Delta manufacturing hub.
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The Myth of a Superhuman AI – Backchannel

The Myth of a Superhuman AI – Backchannel | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Debunking the myth of a superhuman artificial intelligence: Hyper-intelligent algorithms are not going to take over the world for these five reasons.
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Are We Smart Enough to Control Artificial Intelligence?

Are We Smart Enough to Control Artificial Intelligence? | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
A true AI might ruin the world—but that assumes it’s possible at all.
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Google’s health-care mega-project will track 10,000 Americans

Google’s health-care mega-project will track 10,000 Americans | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The project will scrutinize spit, tears, stool, heartbeats, and genomes to search for new predictors of disease.
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Weaknesses in Bitcoin and blockchain might undermine efforts to expand their use

Weaknesses in Bitcoin and blockchain might undermine efforts to expand their use | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
An expert who is studying Bitcoin and blockchain technologies says those looking to commercialize them need to be aware of potentially dangerous technical issues.
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