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Humanist Archives: Nov. 6, 2022, 7:59 a.m. Humanist 36.241 - unlimited growth in 'knowledge' production

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 241.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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        Date: 2022-11-05 08:02:04+00:00
        From: maurizio lana <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.228: the general-purpose machine and unlimited growth

dear Willard,

i think that there is another question lying in the first part of your
message, a question that surfaces in these fragments:
"'What can be automated?'"
"this machine was opening up seemingly endless possibilities"
"the delusion of unlimited possibilities itself"
"the problem of unlimited growth"

the question is that of the production of text through the use of
systems of AI.
GPT-3. 2020. «A Robot Wrote This Entire Article. Are You Scared yet,
Human?» /The Guardian/, 8 September 2020.
Bertram, Lillian-Yvonne. 2019. /Travesty Generator/. Blacksburg, VA:
Noemi Press.
Aalho, Jukka, e GPT-3. 2021. /Aum Golly: Poems on Humanity by an
Artificial Intelligence/. Amazon Digital Services

we see that with computing tools one can produce "a nastro", i would say
with an italian slang expression, one can uninterruptedly produce texts
after texts after texts and cherry-pick the most appealing one.
or one can enhance its ability to produce meaningful text in the context
of scientific publication by using an AI software to foster its
production times and rhythm: see
Thunström, Almira Osmanovic. 2022. «We Asked GPT-3 to Write an Academic
Paper about Itself - Then We Tried to Get It Published». Scientific
American, giugno 2022.
and this would obviously undermine the whole system of Impact Factor

we may assist to (we may have to face?) a doped unrestricted growth of
scientific publications - and who knows what would think of it Vannevar
Bush who in 1945 was saying "Publication has been extended far beyond
our present ability to make real use of the record".


Il 02/11/22 07:38, Humanist ha scritto:
> In "Computer science and education" (1969), pioneer computer scientist
> George Forsythe observed that "computing is rapidly invading almost
> every aspect of our intellectual and technological life." He then went
> on to proclaim that, "Indeed, the question 'What can be automated?' is
> one of the most inspiring philosophical and practical questions of
> contemporary civilization." (Information Processing 68, Amsterdam, p.
> 1025) Newspaper evidence suggests that people were still being surprised
> by the idea for some time afterwards. Two aspects of Forsythe's
> statement interest me. First is the irony that as this machine was
> opening up seemingly endless possibilities, it was at the same time
> closing down others as more and more people accepted the notion that
> what couldn't be computed wasn't terribly important and would after a
> time be accommodated by what Herbert Simon called 'satisficing'. The
> second is the delusion of unlimited possibilities itself, of the
> unlimited 'growth' that is now causing us to reach "the limit situation"
> (Lagerkvist 2022).
> Some days or weeks ago, Jerome McGann pointed to a limitation of
> Lagerkvist's fine book, that it doesn't say much at all in answer to
> Lenin's useful question, "What is to be done?" John Lanchester's novel
> The Wall (2018) gives us a version of a common reaction to that
> question.  But I want to pose a different version of the problem of
> unlimited growth, namely of data--and let me limit this to useful
> scholarly data--and furthermore to the kind one uses by reading it
> rather than applying statistical tests.


s'il n'y a même plus l'humour pour nous alléger
comment lutter
prohom, comment lutter

Maurizio Lana
Università del Piemonte Orientale
Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici
Piazza Roma 36 - 13100 Vercelli

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