Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 432.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
 From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi (63)
Subject: Interpretation of digitalization of world technology
in the views of Heidegger and Kierkegaard -A Call for
 From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi (112)
Subject: Social Tele-Embodiment: Understanding Presence
 From: "Osher Doctorow" <email@example.com> (44)
Subject: A Call to Knowledge
Date: Fri, 04 Jan 2002 10:45:10 +0000
From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi
Subject: Interpretation of digitalization of world technology in
the views of Heidegger and Kierkegaard -A Call for
If German philosopher Martin Heidegger and Danish 'wacko' philosopher
Soren Kierkegaard would have been alive today, then they would have felt
sorry to see the present condition of Information Superhighway and the
fight between man and machine, and increase towards the postmodernity
(false praises of modern high-tech) Regarding these issues, Martin
Heidegger thought it led to superficially instead of deeper dwelling.
Kierkegaard would have similar reactions, though he did newspaper columns
to some extent. Heidegger is agreeing with Kierkegaard when he claims that
we need to be more authentically ourselves, and too much distraction keeps
us from facing our own mortality and the need to affirm our own deepest
needs and projects. We end up accepting a general and levelled down
identity that we get from public images and pressures, instead of
creatively facing up to our own need to take up what has been given us (by
God, for Kierkegaard, by our Age and Being, for Heidegger) in creative and
resolute ways. Here, both are a bit too much in love with the idea of
lonely hero, but Kierkegaard is more careful when he talks of the ways in
which his "knight of faith" might be indistinguishable from his fellow
In the end, I would like to quote Albert Borgmann from "Opaque and
Articulate Design" (depicts Soren Kierkegaard) as "Cyberspace has no fixed
boundaries or places. We revel or despair amidst everything and nothing."
and Soren Aaby Kierkegaard as "Life is not a problem to be solved but a
reality to be experienced."
Kierkegaard might well have denounced the Internet for the same reasons. I
will spell out Kierkegaards likely objections by considering how the Net
promotes Kierkegaards two nihilistic spheres of existence, the aesthetic
and the ethical, while repelling the religious sphere. In the aesthetic
sphere, the aesthete avoids commitments and lives in the categories of the
interesting and the boring and wants to see as many interesting sights
(sites) as possible. People in the ethical sphere could use the Internet
to make and keep track of commitments but would be brought to the despair
of possibility by the ease of making and unmaking commitments on the Net.
Only in the religious sphere is nihilism overcome by making a risky,
unconditional commitment. The Internet, however, which offers a risk-free
simulated world, would tend to undermine rather than support any such
ultimate concern. (As quoted by Hubert Dreyfus in "Kierkegaard on the
Internet: Anonymity vrs. Commitment in the Present Age")
In his essay, The Present Age, written in 1846, Kierkegaard warns that his
age is characterized by a disinterested reflection and curiosity that
levels all differences of status and value. In his terms, this detached
reflection levels all qualitative distinctions. Everything is equal in
that nothing matters enough that one would be willing to die for it.
Nietzsche gave this modern condition a name; he called it nihilism.
In Europe around l850 the new importance of the press accentuated an
essential feature of language, viz. the dissemination of information and
thereby introduced the first revolution in information technology (IT).
Soren Kierkegaard responded with a devastating critique of the curiosity
fostered by the media and condemned in advance what he saw as the
uncommitted and dispersed spectator that would be produced by the new easy
access to information. Commitment to information as a boundless source of
enjoyment puts one in what Kierkegaard called the aesthetic sphere of
existence. Such a life is typified by the net-surfer who is interested in
everything with no distinction between the trivial and important, the
quantitative and the qualitative.
Your thoughts, ideas and repercussions are welcome!
Dr Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer,
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London,
Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K.,
+44 (0)20 7848-2784, ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/,
Date: Fri, 04 Jan 2002 10:46:03 +0000
From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi
Subject: Social Tele-Embodiment: Understanding Presence
Dear Humanist scholars,
In the rush into cyberspace we leave our physical presence and our
real-world environment behind. The internet, undoubtedly a remarkable
modern communication tool, _still does not empower us to enter_ the office
of the person at the other end of connection. We cannot look out their
window, admire their furniture, talk to their office mates, tour their
laboratory, or walk outside. We lack the equivalent of a body at the other
end with which we can move around in, communicate through, and observe
with. But two famous computer scientists, at University of California,
Berkeley are trying to use tele-embodiment techniques by combining
elements of the internet and tele-robotics, and it is possible to
transparently immerse users into navigable real remote worlds filled with
rich spatial sensorium and to make such systems accessible from any
networked computer in the world, in essence Tele-Embodiment. At last, we
will have to see, how much presence and embodiment can be delivered by
Ubiquitous telepresence and tele-technology.(Reference: Ubiquitous
Tele-embodiment: Applications and Implications, Eric Paulos and Johny
"Cyberspace presents us with a dilemma. We are physical beings who
experience the world through our bodies. The notion of a separation
between abstract mind and physical body has been battered and eventually
buried by western philosophers since Kant. In its place came new ideas,
important among them phenomenology, articulation of perception and action
as process involving mind, body, and world....But cyberspace has been
built on Cartesian ideals of metaphysical separation between mind and
body: When we enter cyberspace, even a 3D world, it is the "mind" that
enters. It may be regaled with an exotic 3D form, but such a form is an
avatar only for the mind. The body stays outside." (from Tele-Embodiment
and Shattered Presence: Reconstructing the Body for Online Interaction,
John Canny and Eric Paulos)
When we enter cyberspace by leaving our body behind (as an avatar), as
John Canny and Eric Paulos mentions in his article, "It is seen as a mere
transducer, moving text or audio data in through keyboard or microphone,
and catching data from monitor and speakers." After putting this argument
in front of their readers, authors ask an interesting and important
question as "If we build avatars that *look* realistic enough, shouldn't
the virtual experience be equivalent, or possibly better than the real?"
The biggest danger and most likely outcome at this time is that we will
succeed (from a Cartesian standpoint), but the resulting experience will
still be second-rate. The auhors intelligently argue that, "from an
epistemological point of view, we may be convinced by the sight and sound
of the virtual world, but we will not be satisfied by our interactions
with it", and further authors put an interesting argument as, "the
experience of being in the world is much more than merely observing it."
By taking the above issues in context--here is an excellent article
"Social Tele-Embodiment: Understanding Presence" written by Dr. Eric
Paulos, Computer Science Department, University of California, Berkeley,
CA and Prof. John Canny, Computer Science Department, University of
California, Berkeley, CA appeared in Autonomous Robots 11 (1):87-95, July
2001 published by Kluwer Academic Publishers.
According to the abstract: Humans live and interact within the real world
but our current online world neglects this. This paper explores research
into Personal Roving Presence (PRoP) devices that provide a physical
mobile proxy, controllable over the Internet to provide tele-embodiment.
Leveraging off of its physical presence in the remote space, PRoPs provide
important human verbal and non-verbal communication cues. The ultimate
goal is a computer mediated communication (CMC) tool for rich natural
human interaction beyond currently available systems. This paper examines
PRoP design choices, system architecture, social issues, and evaluations
of several user studies.
The main problem authors describe as..the view of "body-as-transducer
ignores the role of the body in motor-intentional acts. Computer
scientists in the article _Tele-Embodiment and Shattered Presence_ try to
discuss the computer-mediated communication (CMC) from classical and
phenomenological perspectives. John Canny and Eric Paulos are building
simple, internet-controlled, untethered tele-robots to act as physical
avatars for supporting CMC. These devices are called as Personal Roving
Presence devices or PRoPs. These PRoPs are built to approach
anthropomorphism of _function_. This includes they should support at least
gaze, proxemics (body location), gesture, posture, and dialogue. They are
"body-like" because human-interaction is an intensely body-centered
activity. They exist not in a virtual world but in the physical world. So
they interact directly with people (rather than another avatar) or groups
of people. One important property of PRoPs is that --by operating in the
real world, PRoPs expose the differences between natural human interaction
Current computer mediated communication tools such email, chat, and
videoconferencing have increased our social tele-connectivity. They allow
us to exchange text, images, sound, and video with anyone whose interests
we share, professionally or socially, regardless of geographic location.
But for many applications something important is still missing. Existing
tools fail to provide us with an adequate interface into the real world in
which we live, work, and play.
The research of Dr. Eric Paulos describes one such approach towards
solving this problem with simple, inexpensive, internet-controlled,
untethered tele-robots or PRoPs (Personal Roving Presences). PRoPs strive
to provide the sensation of tele-embodiment in a remote real space. The
physical tele-robot provides several verbal and non-verbal communication
cues including: audio, video, mobility, directed gaze, proxemics, and
simple gesturing. PRoPs also enable their users to perform a wide gamut of
human activities in the remote space, such as wander around, explore,
converse with people, and hang out.
For more information please visit <http://www.prop.org>
Dipl-Inform. M.S. Arun Kumar Tripathi
Phone +49 (6151) 16 - 4267
Fax +49 (6151) 16 - 3052
TU Darmstadt - FB 20
Dr Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K., +44 (0)20 7848-2784, ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
-------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Fri, 04 Jan 2002 10:49:20 +0000 From: "Osher Doctorow" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: A Call to Knowledge
I have been exploring a curious interaction between humanism and science and computers called Indiscriminate Terrorism, and in the process learning much about generalizing fuzzy multivalued logics, mathematical probability-statistics, the concepts of existence and the universe, and many other things that may interest members of humanist. See abstracts of 67 of my papers (publications, papers presented, technical reports, and some of my better internet contributions), at http://www.logic.univie.ac.at, Institute for Logic of the University of Vienna (after accessing the site, select ABSTRACT SERVER, then BY AUTHOR, then my name in that exact order).
I cannot guarantee that all or most of it fits into a humanist computer, but some of it should.
The picture that is emerging is that of a struggle between knowledge-orientation and materialism-orientation, even among people who claim to be interested in spiritual matters. The difficulty is that not only is the road to hell paved with good intentions, but that it seems to be also paved with an orientation to only manipulate the material world rather than to seek knowledge. Theoretically, one could have both, but life is often like a game or perhaps a stage, in which one decides in favor of one side or the other, one principle or its negation. For much of the world, knowledge is only something to be used for materialistic ends, something to be manipulated in the way that some sociocultures manipulate women like cattle or worse. Religion then becomes a cover for materialism, and allies itself with those who look for the concrete rather than the abstract, who obsess with the specific rather than the general, who thrive on intradisciplinary and in-group rather than interdisciplinary and inter-group. It allies itself with those who choose one pole when there are many alternatives - those to whom competition means killing off the other side rather than nurturing multiple viewpoints indefinitely, valuing only the multitude and not the individual, valuing only the individual and not the multitude, valuing the past and not the future, and so on.
It allies itself with all the injustices of the past, selectively chosen of course to avoid one's own responsibilities and questions such as why one could not have the initiative to improve one's lot if the other side did have the initiative to improve their lot. It allies itself with finger pointers who see nothing but incredible poverty in a part of the world and see incredible wealth in another part, and ignore the closest relatives and neighbors of the impoverished people whose wealth is never used to improve the situation of their closest relatives and neighbors. It allies itself with naive people to whom all minorities are automatically heroes because there are so few of them in their nation - regardless of whether the minorities are actually comparable to psychopathic stalkers who stab people in the back and cannot confront them face to face.
Do take a look at the abstracts. You can always return to the computers when things get too numerous for human beings to track.
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