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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.


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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.

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Kondratieff cycles and algorithms

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Will Your Next Best Friend Be A Robot?

Will Your Next Best Friend Be A Robot? | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
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The real cyborgs - in-depth feature about people merging with machines

The real cyborgs - in-depth feature about people merging with machines | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The real cyborgs - in-depth feature about people merging with machines. http://t.co/PLvVo1qYX5

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Closing In On Quantum Computing | WIRED

Closing In On Quantum Computing | WIRED | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
“For more than two decades,” writes Valerie C. Coffey (@StellarEdit), “one of the holy grails of physics has been to build a quantum computer that can process certain types of large-scale, very difficult problems exponentially faster than classical computers. Physicists are making progress toward this goal every day, but nearly every part of a quantum…
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Quantum computer buyers' guide: Apps - tech - 20 October 2014 - New Scientist

Quantum computer buyers' guide: Apps - tech - 20 October 2014 - New Scientist | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
What will you be able to run on your quantum computer? Here's our pick of the best apps in the pipeline
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'Cyber' is everywhere, but what does the prefix mean and where did it come from? - 10News

'Cyber' is everywhere, but what does the prefix mean and where did it come from? - 10News | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
“Cyber” — it’s more of a prefix than a word — hasn’t always been so ominous. In fact, it was quite the opposite back in the 90s when the prefix was sometimes linked up with sex to form “cybersex.”  
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Weekend Read: The Imminent Decentralized Computing Revolution

Weekend Read: The Imminent Decentralized Computing Revolution | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Gary Sharma, founder of GarysGuide: A mega-trend is brewing that could make bureaucratic hierarchies, middlemen and gatekeepers everywhere obsolete including social networks, banks, stock exchanges, electronic voting systems and even governments. It’s called decentralized computing, and it could fundamentally transform the way we connect to and exchange value on the Internet. There are three technologies that will form the foundation of the decentralized computing stack -- mesh networks (decentralized networking), block chain (decentralized transactions) and autonomous agents (decentralized decision making). ...
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Microsoft’s Strange Quest for the Topological Qubit | MIT Technology Review

Microsoft’s Strange Quest for the Topological Qubit | MIT Technology Review | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Can an aging corporation’s adventures in fundamental physics research open a new era of unimaginably powerful computers?
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Gartner Predicts Top 2015 And Beyond Trends For Technology, IT Organizations, And Consumers

Gartner Predicts Top 2015 And Beyond Trends For Technology, IT Organizations, And Consumers | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
On the occasion of its sold-out Symposium/ITxpo this week, Gartner revealed its predictions for top technology trends, the impact of technology on businesses and consumers, and the continuing evolution of the IT organization and the role of the CIO.
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Could Quantum Computing Lead To Creative Robots?

Could Quantum Computing Lead To Creative Robots? | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Quantum computing will allow for the creation of powerful computers, but also much smarter and more creative robots than conventional ones. This was the conclusion arrived at by researchers, who have confirmed that quantum tools help robots learn and respond much faster to the stimuli around them.

Via Jean-Philippe BOCQUENET
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Majorana particles - Fundamentally confusing

Majorana particles - Fundamentally confusing | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Jon Butterworth: A completely new type of particle is observed for the first time. What does that mean, fundamentally?
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The Past, Present and Future of Cybernetics and Systems Research

The Past, Present and Future of Cybernetics and Systems Research | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Cybernetics and Systems Research (CSR) were developed in the mid-twentieth century, offering the possibility of describing and comparing different phenomena using the same language. The concepts, w...
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Allen Institute’s Christof Koch on Computer Consciousness | MIT Technology Review

Allen Institute’s Christof Koch on Computer Consciousness | MIT Technology Review | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The world’s best-known consciousness researcher says machines could one day become self-aware.
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Tech: Ignoring an increasingly complex world is not an option - Financial Director

Tech: Ignoring an increasingly complex world is not an option - Financial Director | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Making things simple has been a hallmark of our past, but it won’t do for the future

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This Sociological Theory Explains Why Wall Street Is Rigged for Crisis

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Complex Systems in Social Theory

Complex Systems in Social Theory | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Systems are theory. They are distinguished by observers, scientific or intellectual; and talked about with other observers. They describe a complexity, consisting of a highly integrated differentia...
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UK must learn military drone laws and ethics, says report (Wired UK)

UK must learn military drone laws and ethics, says report (Wired UK) | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
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More research needed to address synthetic biology security concerns

More research needed to address synthetic biology security concerns | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
A new paper examines security risks and policy questions related to the growing field of synthetic biology. While the author doesn't think the field is ripe for exploitation by terrorists, it does highlight significant gaps in our understanding of the nuts and bolts of lab work in synthetic biology ...
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Powerful quantum computers move a step closer to reality

Powerful quantum computers move a step closer to reality | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
A research team from Australia has pushed quantum computers closer to fruition, but a former NSA director warns that the technology could break encryption. By Alex Hern
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Dr. Derek Cabrera’s Plenary for 58th Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences at the School of Business at George Washington University, Washington DC | MetaMap - Cabrera Resea...

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The Internet of Vegetables: How Cyborg Plants Can Monitor Our World | WIRED

The Internet of Vegetables: How Cyborg Plants Can Monitor Our World | WIRED | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
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Discovery of new subatomic particle, type of meson, to 'transform' understanding of fundamental force of nature

Discovery of new subatomic particle, type of meson, to 'transform' understanding of fundamental force of nature | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The discovery of a new particle will "transform our understanding" of the fundamental force of nature that binds the nuclei of atoms, researchers argue. The discovery of the new particle will help provide greater understanding of the strong interaction, the fundamental force of nature found within the protons of an atom's nucleus.
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Here I relate what I perceive to be the most important points of Bertalanffy's General Systems Theory, a copy of which I was given by a professor in the department when he moved to a smaller office...
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New Particle Is Both Matter and Antimatter

New Particle Is Both Matter and Antimatter | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
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The Anatomy of Attention

The Anatomy of Attention | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
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