14.0705 automata

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Thu Mar 01 2001 - 12:05:34 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 705.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: John Lavagnino <John.Lavagnino@kcl.ac.uk> (9)
             Subject: Re: more than defecating ducks

       [2] From: Ambroise BARRAS <ambroise.barras@bluewin.ch> (7)
             Subject: Re: 14.0700 automata

       [3] From: "Norman D. Hinton" <hinton@springnet1.com> (24)
             Subject: Re: 14.0700 automata

       [4] From: Steven Robinson <Robinsons@BrandonU.CA> (34)
             Subject: Vaucanson's Duck

             Date: Thu, 01 Mar 2001 16:41:08 +0000
             From: John Lavagnino <John.Lavagnino@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: Re: more than defecating ducks

    There's a classic work on Vaucanson and computers (and also on Buster
    Keaton, Samuel Beckett, Andy Warhol, the Royal Society, Wyndham Lewis,
    Alan Turing, Alexander Pope, and many other subjects): The
    Counterfeiters by Hugh Kenner, originally published in 1968. You may
    or may not agree with the ideas in the book (about satire and
    simulation and forgery and pretending to be something other than what
    you are: pretending to be human, for example) but it's unquestionably
    a wonderful museum full of fascinating exhibits.

    John Lavagnino
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Thu, 01 Mar 2001 16:41:50 +0000
             From: Ambroise BARRAS <ambroise.barras@bluewin.ch>
             Subject: Re: 14.0700 automata

       would recommand those two entries in the extensive bibliography about
    history of automata.

    COHEN, John (1966). Human robots in Myth and Science. London: George Allen &
    Unwin Ltd.

    BRETON, Philippe (1995). l'image de l'Homme. Du Golem aux cratures
    virtuelles. Paris: Seuil|Science ouverte

    Yours, kindly

    Ambroise Barras

             Date: Thu, 01 Mar 2001 16:44:22 +0000
             From: "Norman D. Hinton" <hinton@springnet1.com>
             Subject: Re: 14.0700 automata

    WIllard, in 1968 a show was mounted at the Museum of Modern Art in New
    York titled "The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age" which
    traced the development of the machine including 'self-destroying
    artifacts', and a bewildering variety of 'real'; machines, automata
    (both artistic and otherwise) and their involvement with the arts.
    Almost the last item in the exhibit was a very crude -- by today's
    standards -- reproduction of a photograph (it looks to have been done by
    some variation of the Dither method), with a quote from Jascha
    Reichardt, from an exhibit in London (see below), "...one cannot deny
    that the computer demonstrates a radical extension in art media and
    techniques. The possibilities inherent in the computer as a creative
    tool will do little to change those idioms of art which rely primarily
    on the dialogue between the artist, his ideas, and the canvas. They
    will, however, increase the scope of art and contribute to its

    The MOMA exhibit is memorialized in the Catalog, published by MOMA under
    the name of the exhibit and was written by K. G. Pontus Hulten. I have
    a copy, which I bought at the exhibit...it is now somewhat of a rarity,
    but copies are found listed for sale in places like www.bibliofind.com.
    It is a fine piece of work, with metal covers, and is itself perhaps an
    item in its own exhibit.

    THe London exhibit was titled _Cybernetic Serendipity_, was held at the
    Institute of Contemporary aRts in the Fall of 1968, and the catalog was
    published as a special issue of "Studio International", in London,
    1968. It is probably easier to find over there than here in mid-USA.

             Date: Thu, 01 Mar 2001 16:45:30 +0000
             From: Steven Robinson <Robinsons@BrandonU.CA>
             Subject: Vaucanson's Duck

    Hello Willard,

    .. .... Forgive me if you're already familiar with what I
    am about to tell you. I use La Mettrie's *Man a Machine* in my intro
    philosophy course as a follow-up to Descartes and a nice contrast to
    Leibniz. Interestingly, they both lend themselves very well to present-day
    computing phenomena: for Leibniz it's virtual reality and the Internet
    (monad-to-monad, with God as the 'server'); for La Mettrie it is machine

            Anyway, I just thought I'd quote you a few lines from La Mettrie, where he
    makes a connection you'd be interested in:

    "Man is to apes and the most intelligent animals what Huygen's planetary
    pendulum is to a watch of Julien le Roy. If more instruments, wheelwork,
    and springs are required to show the movements of the planets than to mark
    and repeat the hours, if Vaucanson needed more art to make his
    *flute-player* than his *duck*, he would need even more to make a *talker*,
    which can no longer be regarded as impossible, particularly in the hands of
    a new Prometheus."

    It is his suggestion of the "talker" of course, that is so striking and
    ahead of his time. Of course, as he is says, it just follows automatically
    from the materialist thesis he is putting forward. If minds are machines
    then there is no reason in principle why we couldn't build one out of raw
    materials, like Vaucanson's Duck.

    I quoted that from the Hackett edition, tr. Watson & Rybalka, 1994.


    Steve Robinson

    Dr. Steven Robinson
    Assistant Professor
    Philosophy Department
    Brandon University
    Brandon, Manitoba
    R7A 6A9 CANADA

    FAX: (204) 726-0473

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