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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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British lawmakers hit by 'sustained' cyber attack

British lawmakers hit by 'sustained' cyber attack | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Britain's parliament was hit by a "sustained and determined" cyber attack on Saturday designed to identify weak email passwords, just over a month after a ransomware worm crippled parts of the country's health service.
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World's Most Powerful Particle Collider Taps AI to Expose Hack Attacks

World's Most Powerful Particle Collider Taps AI to Expose Hack Attacks | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Machine learning is crucial to staying ahead of hackers trying to break into at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider’s (LHC) massive worldwide computing grid
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The world’s fastest supercomputer signals new dominance for Chinese hardware

The world’s fastest supercomputer signals new dominance for Chinese hardware | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
China now has more supercomputers among the world’s top 500 fastest machines than any other nation.
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China's quantum satellite clears major hurdle on way to ultrasecure communications

China's quantum satellite clears major hurdle on way to ultrasecure communications | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Probe sends entangled photons — which could underpin quantum-based data encryption — over unprecedented distance.
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Why Siemens’ IoT Strategy Is Big on Software

Why Siemens’ IoT Strategy Is Big on Software | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The German industrial company’s Internet of Things strategy stretches across the entire value chain of manufacturing.
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New Cybersecurity Executive Order Highlights Need for Deterrence, Protection of Key Industries

New Cybersecurity Executive Order Highlights Need for Deterrence, Protection of Key Industries | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Given the range of possible threats and the pace at which they may appear, it is impossible to protect everything, everywhere, all the time
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The latest NSA leak reveals exactly the kind of cyberattack experts had warned about

The latest NSA leak reveals exactly the kind of cyberattack experts had warned about | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The Russian-backed assault, outlined in a newly public NSA analysis, targeted a particularly vulnerable component of the U.S. voting system.
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Teaching robots right from wrong

Teaching robots right from wrong | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Artificial intelligence is outperforming the human sort in a growing range of fields – but how do we make sure it behaves morally? Simon Parkin meets the men trying to teach ethics to computers
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Sales of industrial robots are surging. So what does this mean for human workers?

Sales of industrial robots are surging. So what does this mean for human workers? | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Industrial robot sales are a record high – and here’s how this will affect the human workforce.
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Ripples in Space-Time! Gravitational-Wave Observatory Detects 3rd Black Hole Merger

Ripples in Space-Time! Gravitational-Wave Observatory Detects 3rd Black Hole Merger | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
It's not a fluke: For the third time, the LIGO gravitational wave observatory has detected ripples in space-time caused when two black holes circle each other at mind-bending speeds and collide.
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Understanding Samsung's Internet-of-Things Story in 15 Slides -- The Motley Fool

Understanding Samsung's Internet-of-Things Story in 15 Slides --  The Motley Fool | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Samsung sees tremendous opportunity in the Internet of Things and will play a crucial role in the revolutionary connectivity trend.
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The most dexterous robot yet learned to grasp from virtual objects

The most dexterous robot yet learned to grasp from virtual objects | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
A dexterous multi-fingered robot practiced using virtual objects in a simulated world, showing how machine learning and the cloud could revolutionize manual work.
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Adopting AI in the enterprise: General Electric

Adopting AI in the enterprise: General Electric | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Karley Yoder on what GE Healthcare has learned as it embraces artificial intelligence.
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Do More! What Amazon Teaches Us About AI and the “Jobless Future”

Do More! What Amazon Teaches Us About AI and the “Jobless Future” | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
We hear again and again that AI and robots are going to take away human jobs. My broken kettle says otherwise. Yesterday, I set my electric kettle down awkwardly on the edge of the sink. Crash! It…
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Meet the Chinese finance giant that’s secretly an AI company

Meet the Chinese finance giant that’s secretly an AI company | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The smartphone payments business Ant Financial is using computer vision, natural language processing, and mountains of data to reimagine banking, insurance, and more.
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Why is the language of transhumanists and religion so similar? – Beth Singler | Aeon Essays

Why is the language of transhumanists and religion so similar? – Beth Singler | Aeon Essays | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The most avid believers in artificial intelligence are aggressively secular – yet their language is eerily religious. Why?
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Divide and conquer: How Microsoft researchers used AI to master Ms. Pac-Man - Next at Microsoft

Divide and conquer: How Microsoft researchers used AI to master Ms. Pac-Man - Next at Microsoft | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Microsoft researchers have created an artificial intelligence-based system that learned how to get the maximum score on the addictive 1980s video game Ms. Pac-Man, using a divide-and-conquer method that could … Read more »
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Industroyer: Biggest threat to industrial control systems since Stuxnet

Industroyer: Biggest threat to industrial control systems since Stuxnet | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
ESET has analyzed a sophisticated and extremely dangerous malware, known as Industroyer, which is designed to disrupt critical industrial processes.
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How Far Will Blockchain Technology Go?

How Far Will Blockchain Technology Go? | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari said recently that blockchain technology has more potential for being adopted in th
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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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China’s new cybersecurity rules threaten to block Western innovation

China’s new cybersecurity rules threaten to block Western innovation | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Critics say the laws will stymie U.S. tech giants working inside the country.
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Why Manufacturers Should Be Mindful Of Cybersecurity

Why Manufacturers Should Be Mindful Of Cybersecurity | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Sophisticated hackers can do more than just access private emails -- they can also compromise entire manufacturing IT networks.
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Teaching robots right from wrong

Teaching robots right from wrong | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Artificial intelligence is outperforming the human sort in a growing range of fields – but how do we make sure it behaves morally? Simon Parkin meets the men trying to teach ethics to computers
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Google’s A.I. Program Rattles Chinese Go Master as It Wins Match

Google’s A.I. Program Rattles Chinese Go Master as It Wins Match | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
A Google program called AlphaGo won a best-of-three match against a Chinese Go master, rattling his nerves and showing the power of new artificial intelligence technologies.
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