Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Jan. 30, 2022, 3:15 p.m. Humanist 35.502 - Man a Machine . . . and AI

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 502.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

    [1]    From: Dr. Herbert Wender <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.499: Man a Machine . . . and AI (99)

    [2]    From: Willard McCarty <>
           Subject: mind, extended mind, the mind-field (37)

    [3]    From: Dr. Hartmut Krech <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.499: Man a Machine . . . and AI (15)

        Date: 2022-01-29 21:18:22+00:00
        From: Dr. Herbert Wender <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.499: Man a Machine . . . and AI


Intertwingling some recent messages toHumanist I would like to ask which kind of
non-ethics may seen behinda citation of La Mettrie in a debate on AI? E.g. Kant
- grounding hisreflections on the distinction between effects of natural
mechanicsand creations as result of teleological processes resp. activities
(asphere of techne rather than mechane) - saw in systemic functionalityof
organic beings an invincible argument against materialistapproaches.

Supposed we could qualify Kant'stranscendental reflections as outdated - which
ethical consequenceswould result? Shouldn't we have in mind that one of the
possibleoptions denies all principles of duty and respect? E.g. the'philosophie
dans le boudoir' by the so-called divine Marquis.

Kind regards, Herbert

-----Ursprüngliche Mitteilung-----
Von: Humanist <>
Verschickt: Sa, 29. Jan. 2022 5:02
Betreff: [Humanist] 35.499: Man a Machine . . . and AI

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 499.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

        Date: 2022-01-28 16:59:33+00:00
        From: Mcgann, Jerome (jjm2f) <>
        Subject: Re: Man a Machine . . . and AI

Has anyone tried to calculate/estimate the quantity of information exchange
processed by an individual person in an hour of waking activity (and perhaps an
hour of sleep)?  As to that, has anyone  produced a description of the
individual’s information storage and processing capacities?

John Unsworth has cited as a general point of departure this:

And it is indeed typical of the approach to the question in that it takes the
brain as the model of human computational functions.  But our memory and
processors are distributed across the entire body.  I’ve been made acutely aware
of this recently because I had a bad fall that wrecked the muscles and tendons
and rotator cuff in my right shoulder.  A month into what will be a long
regimen of PT has introduced me to the multiple computers that operate all of
the damaged equipment, each of which is now having to be rebooted on a daily
basis.  It’s not JUST the brain that is contributing to the machinery of our
information storage and exchanges.  Is he brain actually “smarter” than the
hand, or the eye, or the ear?

Nothing so true as not to trust your senses,
And yet, what are your other evidences?

I set this personal event in the context of the distributed computational
network of human communication and get a sober view of AI.  By no means a
dismissive view.  But the distributed network of any AI computational model,
actual or conceivable, seems so minimal as to be all but without any statistical
or quantum relevance.

Why?  Because unlike “natural” processes, the hardware of AI as currently
designed has no access to its own quantum “histories”.  A reply from an AI
visionary might be (has been?) that when AI software is designed to interoperate
directly (seamlessly?) with an individual’s biochemical system, that limitation
will be overcome.  Does anyone here know if such proposals have been advanced
and perhaps also disputed?  (I know that the poet Christian Bok has been working
on creating  what he calls a “living text” (biochemically coded).  No one, not
even himself, has been happy with the results yet.

Here is a salient passage from La Mettrie, an early proponent of AI.

Experience and observation should therefore be our only guides here. Both are to
be found throughout the records of the physicians who were philosophers, and not
in the works of the philosophers who were not physicians. The former have
traveled through and illuminated the labyrinth of man; they alone have laid bare
those springs [of life] hidden under the external integument which conceals so
many wonders from our eyes. They alone, tranquilly contemplating our soul, have
surprised it, a thousand times, both in its wretchedness and in its glory, and
they have no more despised it in the first estate, than they have admired it in
the second. Thus, to repeat, only the physicians have a right to speak on this

“The physicians” avatars are AI programmers.  And so looming ahead of La
Mettrie’s vision is the dark truth: that person will inevitably be in the
position of Victor Frankenstein, with both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde looming,
because, in the natural order, “experience and observation” are more informed
than any conception/interpretation.

Realizing that seems to me important as we try to design and build digital tools
for investigating and sustaining human exchange in both natural and artificial
worlds, including language exchange.

Jerry McGann

        Date: 2022-01-30 14:59:47+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty <>
        Subject: mind, extended mind, the mind-field

Among several trains of thought set off by Jerry McGann's note, "Man a
Machine... and AI", mine is to wonder about the relation between two
conceptions of (let's say) where the mind is, what or who is doing the

One of these is centred on a particular agent, who extends his or her
mind to tools, other important objects, the environment, other people. 
Such is Edwin Hutchins' Cognition in the Wild, Andy Clarks' Supersizing
the Mind. My favourite example is Alfred Gell's Melanesian operator (Art and
Agency §9.3), who commands the exchange of valuables by extending his
mind through the objects that bear his identity. The other conception,
at least implicit in the fields of Conversation Analysis and Social Intelligence, 
is of mind that is shared among many people, in what we might call the 
in-betweenness of their relation. 

Perhaps there are more. The question I am asking these days is, which is a 
better way to think about artificial intelligence? It seems to me that AI (the 
field of research) is hobbled by the notion of a 'ghost in the machine', an
isolated 'intelligence' measured by its performances, resulting in Dr
Frankenstein's problem. This seems to me obviously an imitation -- AI 
is all imitation -- of the neuroscientists' being-is-brain shtick. The 
alternative, to me much more attractive, is to conceive of an artificial 
intelligence in interaction, or resonance, between human and machine. 
Ask: what are biological humans like that are raised from infancy in total 
isolation from others? Or, to run that up to our time and condition, how is 
pandemic isolation affecting our intelligences? Been thinking not so well 
these days?


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

        Date: 2022-01-29 07:42:26+00:00
        From: Dr. Hartmut Krech <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.499: Man a Machine . . . and AI

Definitely not a full reply to your interesting thoughts, the following
Science study may add some further thoughts:
"Physicists have built neural networks by combining objects instead of
using silicon chips <https://nature.us17.list->.

They work by taking advantage of the inherent physical properties of
*mechanical* systems — such as the vibration of a metal plate. “Everything 
can be a computer,” says physicist Logan Wright, who co-led the study. 
'We’re just finding a way to make the hardware physics do what we want.'”

Best, Hartmut

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