The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

October 8, 2017

distributed networked intelligence

Blue lobster in Bristol RI Audubon Society aquarium. I'm
thinking about networked intelligence here, the relationship
between complex articulations and overall systems behavior - and
how we, as humans, tend to think of intelligence as located
instead in a primary organ.

Image: blue lobster
Image: starfish tentacles

Even systems ontologies break down; given that there is a
consciousness at work here, that numerous limbs and joints need
local and overall articulation, we have to admit, as so many
already have, that we've got intelligence wrong, that
distribution creates an economy of energy and localization
that's absolutely brilliant, that results in different ways of
thinking, even of life and death - consider the wood-net for
example, or hive behavior; think of slime-molds or the
dominating micro-biomes of the human body, in fact of almost
every larger organism. Move not to the grid, but to transport
topologies; our singular 'I' (ipod, ipad, my--) is fundamentally
diffused, and what brilliance lies there, if one only has the
patience to _look._ This lobster is a case in point; arms and
feeding mechanisms interlock, as if they were communities them-
selves. They're not, of course; there simply may not be the
Barthian _punctum_ we insist on, from the vanishing-point
inherent in three-dimensional visual triangulation, to Weyl's
ego-location at the origin of the Cartesian graph. Move from
geometry and manifolds to rubber-sheet topologies without
ontology - pure epistemologies - and then think of this in
relationship, first, to the rigidity of digital protocols, and,
second, to the flexibility of digital protocols, which require
neither realm nor location; so much hacking, for example, is
fundamentally anonymous - all that seems to exist are the
networks and their dynamics.

Forget our heads and brains, look without looking at the
flexible and networked habitus that constitutes our very
existence on the planet; if we do so we might comprehend a bit
more of the intelligence around us.

(One might argue that what occurs might only be a simulacrum of
intelligence, certainly not of consciousness. I err on the side
of consciousness. We had, for close to a year, a fresh-water
crayfish in a tank with fish and plants; we observed it (sex
indeterminate) for a year, and it seemed clear to us that it was
capable of recognition (it could tell us apart), trans-species
relationships (with one fish in particular, with us as well),
learning and meta-learning in Bateson's sense (based on climbing
behavior), and so forth. Recognition was mutual recognition,
that much was clear; whether or not the crayfish thought us
worthy of consciousness seemed almost beside the point.)

- - -

In case you've missed the music (we have a holiday here in the
States), the new songs are at

and version 1 version 2

The lyrics are in

Thanks for listening.

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