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Humanist Archives: Oct. 21, 2021, 7:11 a.m. Humanist 35.312 - psychoanalysis of a digital unconscious?

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 312.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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        Date: 2021-10-20 06:19:16+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty <>
        Subject: a digital 'unconscious'?

We know that a computing system, hardware and operating system software,
is many-layered, from the hardware circuitry, firmware and the many
abstraction layers up to the user interface.

For purposes of argument, let's call what the user sees and can know
from a running maching its 'consciousness', i.e. that of which we can be
consciously aware. Let's also call everything that the user cannot know
directly the machine's 'unconscious'. In the former, we can easily spot
design choices, perhaps construable as prejudices, e.g. in favour of
right-handed people. or those who demand bright colours and active
movement in the interface. In the latter, let us say in the role of a
systems psychoanalyst, I assume we can find unhealthy quirks, a.k.a.

Here is my question. In principle how deep, down through the abstraction
layers, can there be such quirks? Prejudice-hunting is these days in
full swing, so I expect this question may have been considered at
length. But critically speaking, under what conditions, at how deep a
level can choices recognisable as cultural biases be found?



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

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