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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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The Internet of Things: Wholism and Evolution

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New blogpost: The internet of things: Wholism and Evolution

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Synthetic amino acid enables safe, new biotechnology solutions to global problems

Synthetic amino acid enables safe, new biotechnology solutions to global problems | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Scientists have devised a way to ensure genetically modified organisms can be safely confined in the environment, overcoming a major obstacle to widespread use of GMOs in agriculture, energy production, waste management, and medicine.
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How 'Quantum Dots' Could Probe Mysteries of Entanglement

How 'Quantum Dots' Could Probe Mysteries of Entanglement | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Quantum dot masers could help develop quantum computers and probe the mysteries of entanglement.
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Death by Robot

Death by Robot | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Automated machines may soon care for the sick and fight in wars. Can they learn to make moral choices?
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Mental Model: Complex Adaptive Systems

Mental Model: Complex Adaptive Systems | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Let's explore the concept of complex adaptive systems.

Via Lorien Pratt
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Lorien Pratt's curator insight, July 21, 2014 2:33 PM

Probably the clearest explanation I've read of the distinction between complicated, complex, and adaptive.  Well worth a read

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There's Now A Computer Program Playing Perfect Poker, Even Knows How To Bluff

There's Now A Computer Program Playing Perfect Poker, Even Knows How To Bluff | Systems Theory | Scoop.it

Until Cepheus came along. Bowling and his team instructed the computer to play billions of poker games against itself. Initially, they taught Cepheus only the basic rules of Texas Hold’em. The computer started off playing randomly, but eventually it began to learn. Cepheus started compiling lists of “regrets”—situations in which it could have folded or bluffed or bet differently, and won more money by doing so. The researchers then programmed Cepheus to begin acting on its most serious regrets, while ignoring its more minor regrets.


Ultimately, Cepheus whittled its list of regrets nearly down to zero. Now the program can bet and bluff with the best. “If you do this in a precise mathematical way, you can prove your regrets are guaranteed to go down to zero,” Bowling says. “And in the process of approaching zero, you must be approaching perfect play.”


Cepheus isn’t perfect, but it is guaranteed not to lose in the long run. That’s about as good as it gets for a game that still relies partially on chance. Cepheus’ performance has other experts in the field of artificial intelligence excited. “It’s a really interesting paper, with a convincing argument that a particular form of poker has been essentially solved,” says Howard Williams, a computer scientist and doctoral student at Queen Mary University of London, who was not involved in the study.


Beyond poker, Bowling envisions a new set of algorithms that could help security officers optimize checkpoints, random searches and placement of air marshals on flights. In these situations, a program like Cepheus could be taught to view potential terrorists as other players in a high-stakes game rife with variables. “That’s very close to what we have achieved here for the game of poker. It’s a strategy guaranteed not to lose,” he says.


If, however, you find yourself tempted (I know I am), Bowling and his team have set up a website where you can try your luck against Cepheus itself—the one computer program that always knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Thinking Systems #3: Thinking about Systems Theory | SMART Infrastructure Facility

Beginning 2015 with the third installment of Graham Harris' blogging series, "Thinking Systems #3". Read it online: http://t.co/YX0q6W02BC
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Artificial Intelligence: No longer the stuff of science fiction - The National

Artificial Intelligence: No longer the stuff of science fiction - The National | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Writers have long toyed with the idea of a robot revolution but the very real limitations of artificial intelligence have made this an impossibility.
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The Human Brain Project Will Push the Boundaries of Supercomputing | TOP500 Supercomputer Sites

The Human Brain Project Will Push the Boundaries of Supercomputing | TOP500 Supercomputer Sites | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
When the general public hears about the Human Brain Project (HBP), they immediately think about the possible medical breakthroughs the project will enable, like accelerated development of diagnostic tools and treatments for brain diseases or personalized medicine.
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Computing, uncertainty ... quantum leaps and bounds of 2014 - The Conversation AU

Computing, uncertainty ... quantum leaps and bounds of 2014 - The Conversation AU | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The past year has provided some of the most interesting developments in quantum mechanics to date.
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5 technology trends that we’ll see in 2015

5 technology trends that we’ll see in 2015 | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The new year is just around the corner, but what new technology trends will we see in 2015? Here are five of the hottest areas in the technological world that the experts expect to expand over the nex
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Quantum Physics Just Got A Tiny Bit Easier To Understand

Quantum Physics Just Got A Tiny Bit Easier To Understand | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
No one is about to claim that quantum physics is now easy to understand, but maybe it's not quite as devilishly complicated as we thought.

New research suggests that two of the quantum world's most mysterious features--the uncertainty principle a...
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The AI Revolution: Road to Superintelligence - Wait But Why

The AI Revolution: Road to Superintelligence - Wait But Why | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The topic everyone in the world should be talking about.
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Facebook Open-Sources a Trove of AI Tools | WIRED

Facebook Open-Sources a Trove of AI Tools | WIRED | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Facebook has opened up some of its core artificial intelligence tools, which could pave the way for startups and academia to blaze new trails in machine learning research.
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Physicists debate whether quantum math is as real as atoms

Physicists debate whether quantum math is as real as atoms | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Physicists debate whether quantum states are as real as atoms or are just tools for forecasting phenomena.
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The Future of Medicine Is in Your Smartphone

The Future of Medicine Is in Your Smartphone | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
From smartphone attachments that can diagnose an ear infection to apps that can monitor mental health, new tools are tilting health-care control from doctors to patients.
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The Emerging Science of Human-Data Interaction | #bigdata #HDI

The Emerging Science of Human-Data Interaction | #bigdata #HDI | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The rapidly evolving ecosystems associated with personal data is creating an entirely new field of scientific study, say computer scientists. And this requires a much more powerful ethics-based infrastructure.

Via luiy
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luiy's curator insight, January 9, 4:13 AM

... Richard Mortier at the University of Nottingham in the UK and a few pals say the increasingly complex, invasive and opaque use of data should be a call to arms to change the way we study data, interact with it and control its use. Today, they publish a manifesto describing how a new science of human-data interaction is emerging from this “data ecosystem” and say that it combines disciplines such as computer science, statistics, sociology, psychology and behavioural economics.

 

They start by pointing out that the long-standing discipline of human-computer interaction research has always focused on computers as devices to be interacted with. But our interaction with the cyber world has become more sophisticated as computing power has become ubiquitous, a phenomenon driven by the Internet but also through mobile devices such as smartphones. Consequently, humans are constantly producing and revealing data in all kinds of different ways.

 

Mortier and co say there is an important distinction between data that is consciously created and released such as a Facebook profile; observed data such as online shopping behaviour; and inferred data that is created by other organisations about us, such as preferences based on friends’ preferences.


Original Article : http://arxiv.org/abs/1412.6159

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Biology as the next hardware - O'Reilly Radar

Biology as the next hardware - O'Reilly Radar | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
I’ve spent the last couple of years arguing that the barriers between software and the physical world are falling. The barriers between software and the living world are...
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The Philosophy of Complexity: Are Complex Systems Inherently Tyrannical?

The Philosophy of Complexity: Are Complex Systems Inherently Tyrannical? | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The philosophy of complexity is developing as a field of philosophical inquiry to accompany, support, and question advances in the science of complex systems.

Via Christophe Bredillet, Philippe Vallat, Bernard Ryefield
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To Save Our Ecosystems, Will We Have to Design Synthetic Creatures? | WIRED

Bioremediating slugs that monitor our soil, porcupine-like creatures that distribute seeds, biofilm-coated tree leaves that trap pollution and viruses.
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IBM Builds a Brain-Inspired Chip Using Phase-Change Memory | MIT Technology Review

IBM Builds a Brain-Inspired Chip Using Phase-Change Memory | MIT Technology Review | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
A new kind of computer memory could help make more capable computer chips that function more like biological brains, say IBM researchers.
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Machine Intelligence Cracks Genetic Controls | WIRED

Machine Intelligence Cracks Genetic Controls | WIRED | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Every cell in your body reads the same genome, the DNA-encoded instruction set that builds proteins. But your cells couldn’t be more different. Neurons send electrical messages, liver cells break down chemicals, muscle cells move the body. How do cells employ the same basic set of genetic instructions to carry out their own specialized tasks?…
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Humans 2.0: Seeing Ourselves Anew in ‘ #Algorithmic Cascades of #Data’ | #PostHumanism

Humans 2.0: Seeing Ourselves Anew in ‘ #Algorithmic Cascades of #Data’ | #PostHumanism | Systems Theory | Scoop.it

Via luiy, JP Fourcade
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luiy's curator insight, December 26, 2014 5:58 PM

Sensors are cheap and abundant. They’re already in our devices, and soon enough, many of us may elect to carry sensors in and on our bodies, and embed them in our homes, offices, and cities. This terrifies people, Jason Silva says in a new video.

 

Who hasn’t heard of Big Brother or feared the rise of the surveillance state? But Silva says there’s an upside.

 

As the world is reduced to “algorithmic cascades of data” he thinks we’ll get what Steven Johnson calls the “long view,” like a microscope or telescope for previously invisible information and datasets.

 

Billions of sensors measuring location, motion, orientation, pressure, temperature, vital signs and more—each of these will be like a pixel. Seen up close, a modestly flashing primary color. But at a distance, individual pixels dissolve. Discrete points will smooth out into a contiguous image no one could have guessed by looking at each pixel alone.

 

Exactly what image will our sensors reveal?