Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: July 12, 2021, 9:12 a.m. Humanist 35.134 - an oppositional artificial intelligence

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 134.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

        Date: 2021-07-12 07:31:15+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty <>
        Subject: once again unto the breach

Let's consider again this notion (it is vague, I admit) of an
oppositional AI. My objective in staging such opposition of
human-with-problem versus a conceivably mischievous machine is, a
folklorist might say and have examples to prove it, as old as the hills.

For example, in their introduction to Untying the Knot: On Riddles and Other
Enigmatic Modes (1996), Galit Hasan-Rokem and David Shulman write about
a genre that comes to mind:

> The riddle's form is dialogic, requiring the interaction of self and
> other. Two levels are joined in the question, only to be disentangled
> in the answer. The process involved is inherently enigmatic and also
> transformative: the transition effected leaves reality changed,
> restructured, its basic categories restated, recognized, affirmed.
> This is no less true for the inner reality of consciousness than for
> any external, "objectified" world.
> In short, the riddle, both in itself and in its contextual
> embeddedness, is rich in existential content.

The late Peter Clemoes likewise wrote in his masterful book, 
Interactions of Thought and Language in Old English Poetry (1995), 
about how Anglo-Saxon riddling and the enigmatic language in 
Beowulf, The Wanderer &al, deliver "a lesson in the quirkiness to 
which a systematic relationship between potential and performance 
could be subject" (p. 105).

OK, I am fishing... but from time to time I do think I can see the fish.
To speak less metaphorically, I am thinking that it is, somehow, in the 
creative disruption of sedimented thought that the potential lies. 
But equally important if not more so is the question of where the 
disruption occurs. Surely we mistake things fundamentally in 
narrowing this question down to the machine in its precomputational 
sense. Surely the betweenness is where we must look -- in current
jargon, in the 'space' between hardware and wetware?

Clemoes especially furnishes a reminder of what we have to gain by
remembering that in the digital humanities imaginative literature is not 
merely a domain of data to be processed but a way of thinking and 
being to be enacted.



Willard McCarty,
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

Unsubscribe at:
List posts to:
List info and archives at at:
Listmember interface at:
Subscribe at: