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Artificial Intelligence and the Cybernetic Revolution

Mohammad Salemy

Unlike the modern age, when scientific (objective) and artistic (subjective) authorities were carried out exclusively by humans and typically embodied in concrete artifacts, today the materiality of human knowledge—meaning the credibility of its past, the reality of its present, and the probability of its future—are determined to a great extent by the gathering and sharing, as well as the machinic processing and visualization of data into information and information into knowledge. Today, artificial intelligence is increasingly involved in more than just capturing, sorting, and parsing data. It constantly pushes networked computers into unchartered waters beyond their original purpose as a living and calculating archive. Supercomputers are now taking part in making and enforcing rules, activities long conceived to be exclusive to humans.

The emergence of this integrated space and engine of productivity and navigation is enabling a new kind of collaborative production of knowledge by a large number of humans and machines. This strange space of knowing, acting, and understanding is expanding and revising its own outlines through the persistence of a new form of collectivity. Meanwhile, the misrecognition of humans and tools as separate entities continues to fuel our needless anxiety about the possibility of the emergence of artificial intelligence, which can be said to have already taken place and must indeed be situated in the past. With each day, it becomes clearer that not only are we already one with our machines, but that perhaps it is possible to scientifically and functionally think of humans and nature as complex emergent machines.

The integration of the natural world and synthetic technologies through the medium of cybernetics is essentially erasing the categorical differences between the object and subject, thought and image, as well as depth and surface. The radicality of this immanence will eventually render obsolete the need for such distinctions as culture, nature, and perhaps even science, philosophy, and art. The technological transformations of the last two decades are starting to threaten the exclusivity of humans’ conscious and embodied experience of the world. What sets our contemporary condition apart from the past is how various human-centered or -mediated epistemologies are not just shifting, but actively declining and giving way to a new paradigm in which not only images and art but also the whole physical universe can potentially be approached and understood as functions which are ultimately invisible to human perception. Today, not only science but even art and culture can be measured, studied, and judged with little physical and no metaphysical connections to humanity’s understanding of the world, which itself is often based solely on the meaning and implications drawn from a needless sophistication of human sense perception and historical experience.

These videos trace the shape-shifting development of artificial intelligence and provide multidirectional pointers into the discussion surrounding the significance of the cybernetic revolution for culture and the humanities. I have gathered and used these videos as part of my curatorial research project about “tele computation,” a term I have coined to signify the synthesis of mass telecommunication and mass computation. Part historical, part political, part philosophical, and part imaginative, these videos stitch together an ontology for machines and machinic thinking out of the present, past, and the future of the their integration into human life.

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July 13, 2015