Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 182. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: email@example.com Date: 2020-07-23 05:48:29+00:00 From: Willard McCarty
Subject: strata of abstraction & the genesis of surprise I refer back to earlier this month, when I was floundering around for ideas about what might escape those layers of abstraction, i.e. the mechanisms in our digital machines constructed to make programming complex systems feasible and to hide information that we really don't need to see, such as all that the machine does to identify errors, correct them, ensure the machine's reliability. I'd be foolish to speak against reliability, since I do want to get things done -- things that to get done require nothing more or less than the ability to 'attend from' whatever devices are involved with very little or no need to 'attend to' them. (You will recognise Michael Polanyi's terms, from his Tacit Knowledge.) The engineer of bridges wants his or her structures to stay put, as do we all when travelling on them. But there are other things, like computers and musical instruments, for which reliability, though required as a base condition, isn't enough. Ok, I put analogies aside. What I want to know more about is where surprises come from, the kind of genuine surprises that survive into our research and (as Turing remarked in his 1950 paper) are not due to our surprising ourselves. One way of going at this question is to ask it of other, less apparently complex devices and situations. Having done that, we can then ask what's special about digital machines in this regard. Any ideas? Yours, WM -- Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org) _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: firstname.lastname@example.org List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
Editor: Willard McCarty (King's College London, U.K.; Western Sydney University, Australia)
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