Systems Theory
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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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Blockchains and ecosystems

In 1935, Arthur Tansley [1], a pioneer in the field of ecology, stated that an ecosystem is to be considered a whole that is made up of interconnected constituent parts.
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Is 2017 the Chinese year of AI?

Is 2017 the Chinese year of AI? | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The country’s Internet giants are focusing on AI research, and domestic venture capital funding is pouring into the field.
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China forces all app stores to register with the government

Chinse authorities wants to clamp down on unregulated apps that spread malware - and "illegal information"
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Exposed: how one of Russia's most sophisticated hacking groups operates

The malware, zero-day exploits, and phishing scams used by Russian hackers APT28, known as Fancy Bear
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AI trumps humans again after online Go master revealed to be Google programme

AI trumps humans again after online Go master revealed to be Google programme | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Artificial intelligence has already beaten human masters of strategic board game 60 times over the past week
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Google reveals secret test of AI bot to beat top Go players

Google reveals secret test of AI bot to beat top Go players | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Updated version of DeepMind's AlphaGo program behind mystery online competitor.
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China's Very Own Amazon Echo Just Another Addition to Global IoT Data Hemorrhage

China's Very Own Amazon Echo Just Another Addition to Global IoT Data Hemorrhage | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Chinese internet giant Baidu is to launch 'Little Fish,' a voice-controlled virtual valet in the vein of 'Amazon Echo' – but while the Internet of Things gathers pace, tech experts warn that sensitive personal information is increasingly at risk.
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2016: The Year That Deep Learning Took Over the Internet

2016: The Year That Deep Learning Took Over the Internet | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Artificial intelligence is remaking tech giants from the inside out, and it's rapidly spreading to the rest of the world.
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Intel’s plan to give silicon chips a quantum leap of an upgrade

Intel’s plan to give silicon chips a quantum leap of an upgrade | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The world’s largest chip company sees a novel path toward computers of immense power.
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Programmers are having a huge discussion about the unethical and illegal things they’ve been asked to do

Programmers are having a huge discussion about the unethical and illegal things they’ve been asked to do | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
As computer programmers write code that runs everything from airplanes to pharmacy orders, there's a serious need for ethical training and guidelines.
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Machine learning versus AI: what's the difference?

Intel’s Nidhi Chappell, head of machine learning, reveals what separates the two computer sciences and why they're so important
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By 2030, this is what computers will be able to do

By 2030, this is what computers will be able to do | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Medical nanobots, autonomous vehicles and other incredible breakthroughs. But will they bring people together?
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High Speed Traders Are Taking Over Bitcoin

High Speed Traders Are Taking Over Bitcoin | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Zhou Shuoji is not a bitcoin believer. He says the cryptocurrency will never replace its traditional forebears, and he calls most of its proponents fanatics.
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What might government intervention look like for Internet of Things security? – Internet of People

What might government intervention look like for Internet of Things security? – Internet of People | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Update: This story was written before the extent of Friday’s attack on Dyn infrastructure became clear. While Friday’s attack adds no material insights to the core tenets of my argument, the…
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Talking AI Disruption With the Man Who Built Google’s ‘Brain’

Talking AI Disruption With the Man Who Built Google’s ‘Brain’ | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Andrew Ng came from the Google Brain initiative and is now the chief AI scientist at Baidu, and he knows a thing or two about where the robot revolution is heading.
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A smart home is where the bot is | McKinsey & Company

A smart home is where the bot is | McKinsey & Company | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Within a decade, our living spaces will be enhanced by a host of new devices and technologies, performing a range of household functions and redefining what it means to feel at home.
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The Threat Donald Trump Doesn't Talk About

The Threat Donald Trump Doesn't Talk About | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Machines killed U.S. factory jobs. They'll do the same in emerging markets.
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That mystery Go player crushing the world’s best online? It was AlphaGo again

That mystery Go player crushing the world’s best online? It was AlphaGo again | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
After 50 straight wins, DeepMind's AlphaGo earned a draw—because its connection timed out.
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Why 2017 is the year of the bot

Why 2017 is the year of the bot | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
There is a dark side to artificial intelligence technologies, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home.
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Google, Facebook, and Microsoft Are Remaking Themselves Around AI

Google, Facebook, and Microsoft Are Remaking Themselves Around AI | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Artificial intelligence is not only reshaping the technology these tech giants use but how they organize and operate their businesses.
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Systems approach as teleological concordance

Systems approach as teleological concordance | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
A complete concise understanding of the systems approach When I started this blog (CSL4D, i.e. Concept & Systems Learning for Design) almost 5 years ago (January 8, 2012), I had just discovered concept mapping as a great learning tool. At the same time I had a great interest in systems thinking, but found it hard…

Via Bernard Ryefield
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Nokia’s next chapter | McKinsey & Company

Nokia’s next chapter | McKinsey & Company | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The Finnish giant has exited mobile phones and doubled down on its networking business. Chairman Risto Siilasmaa explains why--and how.
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Tencent, a leading Chinese Internet company, is entering the race to advance AI with a new lab

Tencent, a leading Chinese Internet company, is entering the race to advance AI with a new lab | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Tencent, which provides the immensely popular mobile app WeChat along with games and entertainment content, is determined to build a formidable AI lab.
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Me, My Money, and My Devices

Me, My Money, and My Devices | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Technology has yet to fundamentally change how we think about money. As the mobile Internet begins to take financial control out of the hands of bank tellers and regulators, innovators are connecting us to our money in new ways.
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