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Humanist Archives: Nov. 2, 2021, 7:03 a.m. Humanist 35.339 - psychoanalysis of a digital unconscious &c.

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 339.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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        Date: 2021-10-30 16:59:26+00:00
        From: Robert Royar <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.336: psychoanalysis of a digital unconscious &c.

I thoroughly enjoyed this response.

My old brain riffed on a few associations which may be complete
non-sequiturs, but which provide my memory theatre with pegs on which to
hang the ideas. With regard to the relative life of components, I recall
that most early computer parts such as NVRAM and spinning disks provided
the MTBF (mean time between failure). For some reason that concept has been
buzzing in my head for 40 years.

Another concept bubbled up, related to even earlier memories of the Avalon
Hill board game LeMans: "Class F cars are allowed unlimited hard-brakings
and may shift down three gears per turn." 
( So
mid-20th-century board-game designers were considering the possibilities of
brakes failing in the context of a racing game. Perhaps the car designers
also had the equivalent of an MTBF in mind.

Your use of the phrase "artificially clever systems" immediately reminded
me of "clever Hans" (or *der Kluge Hans* auf Deutsch), which then made me
riff on how AI is another form of programming kluge (or kludge), too clever
to understand, but producing what appears to be a valid output.

On Sat, Oct 30, 2021 at 2:15 AM Tim Smithers <>
(via Humanist
<>) wrote:

> Now, say the brake design and manufacture and assembly is
> fine, and has been shown to be by adequate using industry
> standard testing, but it turns out, in intended use
> conditions, these brakes wear more quickly than the brakes in
> other cars.  What if a driver fails to realise this, and
> continues to drive the car with worn, and thus weakened
> brakes, and this results in a fatal accident.  Who is
> responsible for the death in this case?  When you bought your
> last car -- assuming you have bought a car -- did you ask how
> long the brakes last on the model you chose?  May be not.
> It's an unusual question to ask when selecting a car, I
> understand, having talked to people who sell cars.
> [...]

> One part of responding to this question is for designers and
> builds of these artificially clever systems -- sorry I just
> can't call them "intelligent" when they evidently ain't -- is
> to design and build in the functionalities need to support
> sufficient, transparent, and effective, monitoring of their
> use and performance in real world settings.

> Best regards,
> Tim

               Robert Delius Royar
 Caught in the net since 1985

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