Humanist Archives: July 14, 2021, 6:59 a.m. Humanist 35.137 - an oppositional artificial intelligence
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 137.
Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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Date: 2021-07-13 23:51:34+00:00
Subject: Performing Potential ||| Re: [Humanist] 35.134: an oppositional artificial intelligence
I am enticed by your elaboration of the what you are seeking to hook in your
fishing. I am intrigued by the hint at a space between machine and human (though
your terms are “hardware and wetware” suggest a kinship of wares). Your
quotation from Peter Clemoes is the perfect bait. There the traces of a dynamic
emerge from this telling phrase: "a systematic relationship between potential
and performance”. There seems to be an implied feedback loop here.
I am reminded of the summary provided by Markku Eskelinen in "Six Problems in
Search of a Solution: the Challenge of Cybertext Theory and Ludology to Literary
Theory” . In the context of building textual instruments that "is supposed to
shape and frame the player’s action and to produce interesting variation” (which
I take to being akin to the productive fiction you are looking for from
oppositional AI), Eskelinen looks to literary tradition for means of realizing
such textual instruments:
Literary tradition contains at least five easy dialectics that could be adapted
as flexible frames for the necessary variation: the text as an object and a
process, the work and the oeuvre, the text and the intertext, the reader’s and
the text’s control over reading, and the maintenance and destruction of the
text. The task and the pleasure of the reader-player-instrumentalist would be to
maintain, break or (re)create the balance between these oppositional poles.
I am not sure what Eskelinen is referencing by the dialectic between “the work
and the oeuvre” and hazard a guess based on the distinction between object and
process that this formulation is meant to evoke a classic distinction from
French literary theory: that between work and text. And so we come to Roland
Barthes and to his set of variations on the distinctions between work and text
. I want to focus on a triad that is mentioned but not extensively explored
by Barthes since it might provide some agency to the relationship between
performance and potential that seems to underpin the search for oppositional AI.
Just as Einsteinian science demands that _the relativity of the frames of
reference_ be included in the object studied, so the combined action of Marxism,
Freudianism and structuralism demands, in literature, the relativization of the
relations of writer, reader and observer (critic).
What I want to retain here is the possibility of the machine occupying the role
of writer, reader and observer. I think in relation to your oppositional AI it
is easy to imagine writing and reading that produce friction for the human. The
question for me remains open as to how AI can function as an observer. But is it
a question worth posing?
Back to the phrase from Clemoes: is not the writing and reading generated by an
oppositional AI the pretext or potential for the performance of the observer?
Observers also know when not to issue remarks (I recall that annoying animated
paper clip in early versions of Microsoft Office that read keystrokes and
suggested assistance in writing a letter … precursor of many a humorous
autocorrect error) Reading and writing provide the potential for a performance
of observation. The performance of observation is itself the occasion for the
potential of further reading and writing.
Would your oppositional AI be like an observer who takes delight in the
recursive without getting too giddy? Can your AI laugh? At and with?
 Originally published as ‘De l’oeuvre au texte’ in Revue d’esthetique, no. 3,
Paris, 1971; translated as “From Work to Text” by Stephen Heath in _Image Music
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Wannabe Professor of Theoretical and Applied Rhetoric
to think is often to sort, to store and to shuffle: humble, embodied tasks
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