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                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #148                                                  August 5, 2003
                     A Publication of The Nature Institute
               Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
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    Quotes and Provocations
       When the Mind Dogmatizes about Itself
    Intelligence and Its Artifacts (Stephen L. Talbott)
       Habits of the Technological Mind #1
    About this newsletter
                             QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS
    When the Mind Dogmatizes about Itself
    Nearly every problem of a technological society is at bottom a problem of
    mind.  In fact, this is true of society in general -- although the issues
    are often posed most sharply by technological developments.  In future
    newsletters I will be dealing more and more, and in more fundamental ways,
    with the relation between mind and machine.  So it may not be a bad time
    to make the following point, which seems to me both straightforward and
    Anyone today who approaches the problem of mind by proclaiming himself
    committed to a materialist or mechanistic solution is a religious zealot.
    Typically, the proclamation runs something like this:  "Science has
    explained the entire world based on physical principle alone.  It makes no
    sense to appeal to some mysterious new principle in order to account for
    the last residue of unexplained phenomena -- the so-called 'mental'
    residue associated with the human brain".
    Leaving aside the fact that we cannot imagine any law whose reality lacks
    a conceptual (mind-like) component, so that "physical principle alone" is
    never actually physical principle alone; and leaving aside the historical
    truth that the "last", obstinate bits of reality troubling existing bodies
    of explanation have often signaled revolution (think of Planck and
    black-body radiation, Einstein and the speed of light) -- even apart from
    these considerations, there is reason to view the materialist commitment
    as a flight into religious zealotry.
    After all, the "last residue" is in fact the first, grounding principle,
    inasmuch as the entire history of scientific explanation has resulted from
    the activity of the "residue".  Far better, then, to assume that what we
    discover about the mind will clarify the truth and error in this history
    than to let the history blindly determine what we will accept as the truth
    of the mind.  When we hear someone declaring that the results of the
    mind's past, unselfenlightened activity should effectively prejudice our
    future understanding of the mind itself, then we can be sure that dogma is
    compromising the objectivity and openness so crucial to science.
    Goto table of contents
                          INTELLIGENCE AND ITS ARTIFACTS
                       Habits of the Technological Mind #1
                                Stephen L. Talbott
    It has happened to all of us.  We are quietly tending to our own business
    when a disturbance of the atmosphere -- its subtle approach unbetrayed by
    the visible trembling of even the most delicate leaf -- suddenly shakes us
    with preternatural force.  Our reaction is unpredictable before the fact:
    anger, a shock of fear, laughter, surprise, a transport of joy -- all are
    possible.  Often the atmospheric agitation may pass virtually unnoticed;
    but at rare moments we know instantly that our life will never be the
    same.  Such is the cogent power imparted to the surrounding air when
    someone speaks a word.
    When you speak, you sculpt the stream of your breath, investing the
    sound-shapes as best you can with a measure of your own passion,
    determination, and insight.  As with all worthy sculptures, these
    complexly structured sound-shapes carry within themselves some of the
    content of your inner life.  They are in this sense bearers of
    consciousness.  Even if I cannot see you, I may gain knowledge of you --
    perhaps something about your innermost thoughts or feelings -- solely from
    the sculpted air-forms.  I may then construct my own air-forms in reply,
    launching them into the atmosphere even before the reverberations of your
    speech have wholly died away.
    Earth's air mass is ceaselessly filled with these invisible sculptures,
    calling to each other, questioning, answering, provoking, sighing,
    mingling together and transforming one another in beautiful, infinitely
    complex patterns of interference.  How differently we would think about
    them if they were routinely visible, as text is visible!  If an alien were
    to visit our planet with appropriate instruments for detecting and
    decoding these patterns, presumably he would report back to headquarters:
    "Earth's atmosphere is a marvelous thing!  It is filled with airy forms
    engaged in the most fascinating conversations.  We must study the
    constitution of this unique air mass to determine how it evolved such
    "Well", you say, "now you've gone too far.  The bit about 'airy
    intelligence' is just plain silly".
    Yes, I went too far -- quite intentionally.  Let's recognize the
    silliness.  But let's also acknowledge the reason for it:  in that last
    remark I failed to distinguish properly between the originating, human
    intelligence of the speaker, and the resulting, derivative intelligence
    impressed upon the air-forms.  Yes, these forms really are bearers of
    intelligence -- a truth often underestimated.  But at the same time they
    are derivative.  It is one thing to speak and quite another to be spoken.
    Obvious, perhaps.  Yet the failure to make this distinction between
    speaking and being spoken is taking root within our culture as a defining
    element in our stance toward intelligent machinery.
    Two Poles of Intelligence
    Audible speaking is not the only way we invest intelligence in the
    material of the world.  We can write words upon paper, or print them using
    mechanical devices.  Or we can encode them into magnetic tape, arrays of
    transistors, or the pitted surface of a compact disk.
    There are other ways we "speak" as well, impressing our wordless (but
    still word-like) intelligence upon the world.  A screwdriver and plow bear
    the imprint of the functional idea motivating their invention.  The same
    thing is true of vastly more complex machinery, where not only the static
    form of the parts but also the pattern of their movement and interaction
    is a bearer of intelligence, as in the printing press, loom, automobile
    engine, mechanical clock.  And so, too, when the primary parts are minute
    stores of electrical energy and the movements are current flows, as in a
    Now, until the past several decades we had little difficulty instinctively
    recognizing a twofold truth.  First, it is perfectly natural to be pleased
    or incensed at the words we read on a page because they are indeed
    intelligent words; they mean something.  But, second, this meaning is
    ultimately the author's, not (in the same sense) the paper and ink's.  Our
    pleasure and anger are, in the end, responses to a person, not a sheet of
    This, in fact, is why my opening picture of interacting atmospheric forms
    probably struck you as strange.  It's not that my description was in any
    way untrue, but only that we habitually attend to the expressing
    intelligence rather than to the outer body of the expression.  The
    sound-shapes, like the ink on the paper, drop out of consciousness because
    our primary interest lies with the speaker's interior world of thought,
    feeling, and intention.  We do not ascribe this interior to the sound or
    ink in the same way we ascribe it to the speaker or writer.
    The case is similar when we consider complex, moving machinery, such as
    the press that produces the printed page:  we can hardly assign authorship
    and its responsibilities to the press.  After all, the same sort of
    relation obtains between the press and its builder as we see between
    handwritten words and the writer.  There is, on the one side, intelligence
    embodied in material, and, on the other side, the person contriving the
    No one would quarrel with this.  But somewhere along the way from the
    printing press stamping out inked pages, to the programmed computer
    generating screen displays, many began to imagine that we were now dealing
    with a potential for native, originating intelligence in machinery.  This
    conviction has thrived despite the obvious truth of the matter regarding
    "lesser" devices such as typewriters or calculators; it thrives despite
    the fact that we can impose the derived sort of intelligence upon matter
    without any apparent limit to the intricacy and complexity of these
    artifacts; and it thrives despite the inability of anyone to characterize
    in a principled way how such outward imprints of intelligence are
    transformed into an originating intelligence.
    Putting it in slightly different terms:  we know from the simple and
    obvious cases that we need to distinguish intelligence from its artifacts.
    Both can be said to be intelligent, but not in the same way.  How does
    this distinction between originating and artifactual intelligence
    disappear in the case of exceedingly complex artifacts?  And why does the
    distinction, which must have some bearing on the complex devices whatever
    our view of them, receive so little attention?
    Certainly there is activity going on in our machines, just as there is
    activity going on between the intelligent sound-forms continually
    disturbing the atmosphere.  But it doesn't seem too much to ask:  how did
    this activity get there, and what is its relation to its source?
    A Fanciful Picture
    The history of artificial intelligence has, for the most part, been a
    history of play with, and theorizing about, the outward bodies (or
    "tokens") of symbols.  There has been widespread disregard of the inner
    act by which alone the token is constituted a symbol.  And even when
    attention is given to the problem, the real issue typically remains
    In his textbook, Artificial Intelligence: The Very Idea, philosopher John
    Haugeland acknowledges what he calls "the mystery of original meaning",
    which he describes as the problem of "telling minds from books".  But he
    frames the mystery this way:  "suppose some special brain symbols had
    original meaning and all other meaningfulness derived therefrom".  So he
    starts with the already materialized symbol and then asks whether it may,
    in some cases, have a special, original significance.  It is exactly as if
    he were to inquire whether some of the words on the page or some of the
    spoken sound-shapes have a special, original significance.  This is to look
    in the wrong place.  It is to look for the speaker in his speech.
    Needless to say, Haugeland finds no evidence for his "original" meaning.
    But neither can he disprove its existence, so he finally resorts to a bit
    of science fiction.  Suppose, he writes, that a future comes when
    intelligent computers
       are ensconced in mobile and versatile bodies; and they are capable (to
       all appearances anyway) of the full range of "human" communication,
       problem solving, artistry, heroism, and what have you.  Just to make it
       vivid, imagine further that the human race has long since died out and
       that the Earth is populated instead by billions of these computer-
       robots.  They build cities, conduct scientific research, fight legal
       battles, write volumes, and, yes, a few odd ones live in ivory towers
       and wonder how their "minds" differ from books -- or so it seems.  One
       could, I suppose, cling harshly to the view that, in principle, these
       systems are no different from calculators; that, in the absence of
       people, their tokens, their treatises and songs, mean exactly nothing.
       But that just seems perverse.  If [artificially intelligent] systems
       can be developed to such an extent, then, by all means, they can have
       original meaning.
    But, as Haugeland is doubtless aware, this is no argument.  It is simply a
    way of gratifying himself by picturing vividly what he would have liked to
    prove.  When he imagines that artificially intelligent systems "can be
    developed to such an extent", he ignores the fact that the developing
    intelligence must stand upon a different level from what is developed and,
    crucially, the difference has to do with a power of acting versus the
    products of this power.
    What makes Haugeland's picture compelling for many people, I think, is
    their vivid awareness of technical advance, their current experience of
    machines that "talk" and do other human-like things, and their inability
    to imagine any clear limit to how intricate and sophisticated our devices
    may become.  That last is a vital point.  There is no clear limit to how
    intricate and sophisticated our devices can become.  It is one of the
    glories of humanly intelligent creatures that we can organize matter in
    increasingly complex ways.
    All that is needed, then, is for us to forget ourselves -- to ignore our
    activity at its originating source -- and then to project onto our
    machines what has thus been lost to our own consciousness, whereupon we
    will find Haugeland's fictional scenario absolutely convincing.  We will
    also find ourselves without any basis for comprehending what robots might
    and might not actually do -- expectations that depend upon our ability to
    distinguish thinking from its embodiments.
    This ignoring of ourselves and projection of our highest activities upon
    machines are already entrenched features of our culture.
    Mechanization of the Word
    Every word presupposes a speaking consciousness.  The word is a bearer of
    consciousness; there is always an expressing agent behind it.  This is why
    we feel instinctively compelled to respond to computers as if we were
    speaking to persons, just as we respond to a book as if we were speaking
    to the author.  The instinct is a healthy one -- we really are responding
    to someone's speech -- but the health of the instinct depends on our
    ability to identify correctly who the speaker is.
    The problem is that, compared with face-to-face conversation, the book had
    already introduced a great distance between reader and author.  And now,
    between the programmer specifying words to be assembled upon patterns of
    logic, on one side, and the user interacting with computer output on the
    other, the anonymous distance has grown hopelessly large and
    indeterminate.  This distance has, moreover, been rendered opaque by the
    abstruse complexities of digital technology.  No wonder many abort their
    effort to understand the source of the words and instead ascribe the
    machine's obvious intelligence to the machine itself as agent.
    You can see the situation we're getting into.  From the supermarket
    checkout counter to the bank teller to web transactions to the home
    entertainment center, our lives are ever more thoroughly embedded within
    automated, intelligent systems.  We are continually assaulted by the
    mechanized word, but less and less aware of where the speaking comes from.
    We have less and less experience of the conscious acts giving rise to the
    words, and we ourselves are not really addressed by the words.  It is "the
    System" that speaks, but the System seems to be nothing more than the
    machine rendered vague and ubiquitous.
    Given such an intense training to disregard the originating speaker, is it
    any wonder that our own speaking, as non-mechanical act giving rise to the
    embodied symbol, has been disappearing from our awareness?
    Degradation of the Spoken Word
    In some ways we have not overestimated intelligence-as-product, but rather
    underestimated it.  The intelligence we invest in our artifacts is really
    there -- out there in the world.  This is a truth that, in good Cartesian
    fashion, we have spent several centuries trying to ignore.  We wanted a
    world of inert things, absolutely devoid of any interior -- pure outward
    matter.  And so nature was disensouled, becoming the domain of things
    rather than speech and expression.  We progressively lost our sense for
    the living qualities of our environment.  Our attention turned from the
    inner meaning of things to their outward, syntactic forms -- rather like
    analyzing the patterns of ink on a sheet of paper instead of reading the
    words.  Having forgotten the speaking, we inevitably began to lose a
    proper appreciation for what was spoken as well.  Nature died for us.
    This, I suspect, is why the latter-day invention of intelligent machinery
    has struck us with such galvanizing force.  Even as a caricature -- even
    if we have mistaken the spoken machine for our own powers of speech -- our
    attention is being redirected to the word-like character of the world.
    There is a kind of re-ensouling going on.  Or could be.
    A caricature can be a step toward truer understanding, or else a step
    toward an ever more radical disfiguration of the truth.  As good a way as
    any to grasp the divergent potentials of our current situation is to look
    at what has happened to human speech.
    When the spoken word was alphabetically encoded and written down, it
    became a much thinner bearer of intelligence, since it almost completely
    lacked the expressive potentials of the voice's artistic sculpturing.  The
    relation between the outward "body" of the sign and its inner meaning
    shifted toward arbitrariness.  The sculptural and artistic aspect, whereby
    the outward body is itself an expression of the inner meaning -- the
    meaning made perceptible -- is no longer there.  Words, all the more as
    handwriting becomes machine printing, perform the barest pointing
    function:  "This sign stands for that meaning".  There is no particular
    reason for the sign to stand for the meaning, because the sign is no
    longer the meaning condensed into external form.
    In this context, intelligent artifacts appear less as an occasion for re-
    ensouling the world than as a symptom of the dis-ensouling even of our own
    speaking.  An alien would be much more justified in saying the earth's
    sounding air mass is intelligent than in saying a computer is intelligent.
    The sound-forms are more fully expressive of the entire human being than
    is digital logic.  There are various logics implicit in the forms, but the
    forms are much more than the logic.
    I have personally experienced the expressive degeneration of language by
    listening to the National Weather Service radio broadcasts ever since, a
    year or two ago, they began to feature computer-synthesized voices.
    Sometimes I listen several times a day.  It suddenly hit me recently that
    I had almost completely acclimatized to the artificial voice.  True, when
    I actually stop and attend to the voice, I realize there hasn't been a
    great deal of improvement since the automated broadcasts began.  There are
    the same mispronunciations, the same punctuational and inflectional
    absurdities.  But the effort of attention required in order to notice
    these distortions becomes ever more difficult.  I am being habituated to a
    degraded language.
    But this raises an interesting question.  What might the opposite process
    -- a genuine re-ensouling of language -- look like?  If in fact we are the
    ones who speak technology into existence, how could our speaking become
    more profound?
    Facing Up to Disability
    We are all continually subjected to uninspired, lifeless speech, as well
    as to the artificial inspiration lying behind calculated rhetorical
    effect.  But we have also noticed on occasion (even if the noticing was
    scarcely conscious) what a remarkable difference a genuinely talented
    actor or storyteller can make.  Try listening for example to Nicol
    Williamson's reading of The Hobbit.  In such cases the words come alive
    and the listener may be transfixed by them.  I believe we have paid
    entirely too little attention to the objective differences of speech that
    reliably produce such different listening experiences.
    Unfortunately, in an age preoccupied by syntactic structures and
    information, these qualitative differences -- which are always substantive
    differences in content and meaning -- scarcely rate much serious attention
    outside performance circles.  Certainly they do not often enter into
    discussions of artificial intelligence.
    But this is exactly the problem.  I would like to illustrate it by
    relating an experience of my own.  A few years ago I had a brief
    opportunity to work with Patricia Smith, a speech artist who had spent
    years in a special speech training.  Her aim was to recover those depths
    of language where, to some degree at least, the sounds of words are
    themselves the expressive embodiment of the words' meanings.  These depths
    are mostly forgotten, and therefore are commonly denied by linguists.  But
    this is less a point for arguing than for experiencing.
    My own experience was startling.  To hear Patricia recite anything -- a
    child's poem, say -- was to hear a power issuing from interior regions I
    had been completely unaware of, a power clothing itself in sound.  It's
    not that she recited with great outward force or drama, in the usual
    sense.  The quiet power was that of the words themselves expressing some
    of the potential with which they were invested at their forging.
    Actually, most people would notice nothing very special upon hearing
    Patricia speak -- just as, in the other direction, I typically hear
    nothing unusually degenerate in the weather broadcasts.  Our hearing is
    dulled; we mostly care only for the abstract content we call
    "information".  It was not until I tried to repeat lines after Patricia
    that I was forced to listen and hear.  Even then, it took a very long time
    for me to recognize and accept the disturbing reality I was being
    presented with.
    You might think that anyone, with a little work, could learn to repeat at
    least an isolated line with roughly the same expression as another person.
    It never occurred to me that the case might be otherwise.  Yet after
    several months I had to acknowledge that I could not come near what I was
    slowly learning to hear in Patricia's speech.  No matter how long I worked
    on one sentence, one phrase, a single word, I still heard this heart-
    sinking deadness in my own voice compared to hers.  I simply could not
    imitate the simplest sound in any of its profundity.
    For someone who had come to think about sound, like nearly everything
    else, in a much too mechanical way, this truth was not easily accepted.
    "Just shape your damned vocal chords the right way, and you'll get the
    quality of the sound you want".  But no, I had to realize that to sculpt a
    fully expressive word would be no less an achievement of imagination,
    beauty, and meaning than Picasso's sculpting of metal or Mozart's crafting
    of a sonata.  I had no realistic prospects of getting very far.  Because
    of my own peculiar and severe biographical limitations, I am in many ways
    an extreme case.  But in general we do not prepare our young for the
    realization of their speaking potential.  Rather, we do everything we can
    to destroy it.  If you doubt this, just listen the next time your kid is
    playing with a "talking" doll or a video game.  Or listen to the weather
    Learning to Speak Again
    We know, or could know, that a sick patient residing in a beautiful,
    restful setting, feeling the sun and breeze, will do better than in a
    typical hospital setting.  We know that the sound of the human voice in
    song -- now often employed in hospices -- can be dramatically healing.  We
    know that different colors can quite literally move us in different
    ways.  We know that architecture can be drab and oppressive (look in most
    schools), or else can encourage the human spirit to soar.
    In these and countless other ways our speaking -- the qualities of it, the
    inner expressive power we manage to invest in the stuff of the world -- is
    a force for good or ill in society.  Really, developing this power of
    creative speech is the only thing our life is about.  And it goes hand in
    hand with our ability to hear the world's speech.  If we were to attend to
    the full expressiveness of the human being with even a fraction of the
    resources we devote to extracting dessicated "information" from the
    genome, might we not gain far greater powers for health than we will ever
    gain from mechanistically conceived genetic manipulations?
    A healthy technology will be as much art as machinery.  Currently,
    however, the elimination of the qualitative and artistic dimension from
    consideration, leaving us with a naked skeleton of logic and algorithm, is
    more or less what defines technology.
    The voice proper, I think, gives us the best model of our technical and
    creative potentials.  There is a kind of living power in the spoken word
    greatly transcending the merely technical, which is why it can so directly
    move us and light up within us as an awareness of another person's
    interior.  And it is not only that the sounding voice moves us; it also
    has the power to shape the stuff of the world, calling it up into
    complexly organized artistic forms.  (If you're interested in this shaping
    by sound and related vibrations, look into the "cymatic" researches of
    Hans Jenny and the literature on Chladni figures.)  The voice can both
    shatter crystal and impose qualitative form upon a delicate flame.  Who
    knows how deeply our creative impulses might penetrate the mysterious
    interior of matter, merging with the most primal speech underlying things
    themselves, if we should begin cultivating an awareness of the full range
    of qualities in our own voices.
    We will have to overcome several centuries of strict training if we are to
    explore these new possibilities.  Many of us will have to say, as I had to
    say about Patricia's speech, "This is mostly beyond me; as a child of the
    technological age, I have been closed off from too many of the
    prerequisites for getting very far with such a skill".  And no doubt some
    of those unwilling to accept this truth will become snake oil salesmen,
    purveying endless nonsense under cover of the potentially vital
    disciplines of aromatherapy, chromotherapy, feng shui, and all the rest --
    just as, on the other side, we have heard endless nonsense about curing
    diseases from the genetic engineers.
    I have no doubt that there are a handful of wise practitioners in the
    various disciplines just mentioned.  And I do not intend my own experience
    with speech to become a counsel of hopelessness.  I am a worse case than
    most!  And we can always take profitable steps in the right direction.
    Personally, I count it a great gift to have heard Patricia Smith's
    recitation, and to have gained my first inkling of a world of expression,
    a world of speaking, previously lost to my hearing.
    I am convinced that it is vitally important for our society as a whole
    to gain some such inkling.  Otherwise, there will be nothing to restrain
    the death rattle, the hollow crescendo of empty symbols in apparent
    conversation with each other, but with no one speaking.
    A Concluding Note to AI Researchers
    Here is a thought experiment:
       Suppose we have two robots inside a room, conversing.  You and I are
       able to observe the room, but in different ways.  One of us directly
       watches the robots and hears their dialogue; the other is not allowed
       to see them but is given technical means to observe the air-forms in
       the room and to hear these forms as speech.  The task of the one
       observer is to decide whether the robots are intelligent in anything
       like a human sense, while the other observer must decide whether the
       air is intelligent.
       One of the various questions we can ask, then, is whether the
       prevailing notions of robotic intelligence allow us to call the robots
       "intelligent" in a way that does not apply to the air.
    I know full well that a thousand objections to such a "preposterous"
    thought experiment will immediately leap to your mind.  But I would
    urge you to stick with it for a while and try to think the matter
    through a little further.  For many of the objections will not prove
    as straightforward as they appear at the outset.  I can, for example,
    imagine someone replying:
       Of course there's no intelligence in the air as such.  It's artificial
       to treat the air in isolation from the physical structure of the
       robots, since there is a clear, consistent, cause-and-effect relation
       between the vocal actions of the robots and the movements of the air.
       It's always an overall, coherent, and interrelated system that is
    Fine.  But if then we seriously want to consider the atmosphere as part of
    our intelligent, robotic system, a great deal seems to follow.  Is there
    any way in principle to isolate the electrical currents of the robot's
    "nervous system" from the regional generating station and power grid?
    Must we then consider the power station (or the sun, if solar panels are
    used) as an essential organ of our intelligent robot?
    And, even more obviously, there are the programmers, hardware engineers,
    and others whose actions are in various regards causally responsible for
    building and sustaining the robot and specifying its patterns of action.
    Within the discipline of artificial intelligence there has been great
    disdain for the popular sentiment that says a computer "can only do what
    it's programmed to do".  But if, as the researchers would prefer, we
    disregard the programmer as a crucial part of our intelligent robotic
    system, why should we not disregard the robot as part of an intelligent
    atmospheric system?  Think of it this way: it's perfectly reasonable to
    try to narrow down your definition of an intelligent system.  The question
    is whether the body of the robot qualifies for such a narrowing down any
    more than the body of air.
    The fact is that the robot is mortised into a causal nexus that extends
    outward to include just about everything.  So long as we concern ourselves
    only with the products of intelligence (leaving originating agents out of
    account) we have no clear ground for locating a source for any particular
    intelligent act.  The entire world becomes for us a kind of robotic
    This is, in fact, the direction in which I see us being driven.  It is no
    accident that even materialists have taken up the language of intelligence
    -- and particularly the terminology of information -- and begun to apply
    it with little sign of embarrassment to the entire natural world, whether
    they are speaking of evolution or black holes.
    There is truth in this, or would be if the essential effort were not to
    deny active intelligence while taking covert advantage of its explanatory
    value.  There would be truth in it if we were able to distinguish between
    consciousness and that of which it is conscious, between the act of
    thinking and its products.  But the main thrust of AI today is to
    reconceive consciousness and thinking in terms of their results,
    forgetting our own activity as conscious thinkers.
    I spoke above of the "originating agent", and this will be the point at
    which many become puzzled today.  What is meant by such an agent, or by
    thinking as act rather than thinking as product?  Suffice it for the
    moment for me to point out that in the course of evolutionary history,
    long before anyone was staking out personal positions or thinking about
    human-machine relationships, the members of one particular species began,
    from somewhere within themselves and without philosophical prompting, to
    say "I".  Surely one place to look for an originating agent is in the
    speaker of this word, and in the interior activity lying behind the word.
    And certainly the only place we can discover the essence of this activity
    is in the self that performs it -- that is, in the "I", not in the
    material symbols every "I" proceeds to fashion from the world.
    As for our thought experiment, the "intelligent-atmosphere" hypothesis
    seems to me at least as defensible as the "intelligent-robot" hypothesis
    -- there really is intelligence in all our artifacts.  But the two
    hypotheses also suffer the same limitation:  it makes no more sense to say
    the robot is an originating intelligence than to say the atmosphere is.
    Related articles:
    "And the Word Became Mechanical", in The Future Does Not Compute:
    "Mindlessness and the Brain", in NF #138:
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    Steve Talbott :: NetFuture #148 :: August 5, 2003
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