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Category Archive for 'Gender'

Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing: the denial of gender and the escape into the rational mind

Ada King, countess of Lovelace (1815–52), was a brilliant English mathematician. She is often called the first programmer in history. She wrote programs for Charles Babbage’s analytical engine, even foreseeing the scope of algorithms to process data beyond numerical calculations, which no one had yet begun to conceive. A programming language named Ada has been developed in her honor.

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of the romantic poet Lord Byron. He and his social entourage were disappointed with her gender and he soon separated from both her mother and England. Byron died when Ada was nine.

Ada’s mother arranged the girl’s life to avoid any contact with either her father or his attitude toward life. She considered Lord Byron insane and, worrying her daughter might share it, educated Ada in mathematics from a very early age, even through prolonged health problems constrained the girl to bedrest. Ada Lovelace died at 36 from uterine cancer and requested to burial next to Lord Byron, finally joining the father she never knew.

Alan Turing (1912–54), English mathematician and cryptoanalyst, had enormous influence on computer science. His Turing machine incorporated important advances in the formalization of algorithms and computability. Turing conceived the Turing Test which defined a “thinking machine” as one that fooled a person into believing s/he was having a conversation through a keyboard with a human being in a remote location. During the Second World War his cryptoanalysis was fundamental in breaking the German ciphers, contributing to the defeat of Nazism.

In his era, homosexuality in England was subject to criminal prosecution. In 1952, after admitting to having sex with a young man, Turing was given the choice between incarceration or a treatment with female hormones (“to reduce the libido”). How absurd that after helping save his country from Nazism, it treated him as a criminal. In 1954, Turing died of poisoning. In 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized on behalf of the British government for the way he was treated.

Jaron Lanier, in “One Half a Manifesto,” commented on the tragic death of Turing in these terms:

Turing died in an apparent suicide brought on by his having developed breasts as a result of enduring a hormonal regimen intended to reverse his homosexuality. It was during this tragic final period of his life that he argued passionately for machine sentience, and I have wondered whether he was engaging in a highly original new form of psychological escape and denial; running away from sexuality and mortality by becoming a computer.

I think the denial is deeper than the sexuality issue: It has to do with the denial of anything but the “pure” Cartesian mind, including the body and sensuousness. With both pillars of contemporary IT we see how a denial of sexual identity, the sensuous and non-rational world shaped their lives. Lovelace’s gender was rejected by her father, while her mother pushed her toward a purely rational life. The law repressed Alan Turing’s homosexuality, as he likely did himself.

The mind is regarded as the most important human feature and the identification with it is so deep that we want to reproduce it on machines, becoming creators in our turn. We even have developed a test to ascertain the “intelligence” of a machine.

Joseph Weizenbaum in 1964 created Eliza, an interactive program that simulated a Rogerian psychotherapist. Weizenbaum himself was surprised and concerned to see that users were taking its words seriously. While the mind can surely be simulated, this tell us nothing about what’s going on inside. However it does underscore how much the mind can be fooled and how we can actually behave mechanistically.

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The Digitally Divided Self

There’s an unusual but apparent alliance between two philosophies which are barely aware of and rarely come into contact each other, which conjure against the physical reality and the body. The first “philosophy” is represented by what have variously been called Cyberspace, Technopoly, Cyburbia and other names.

I prefer to define it as “The Digitalization of Reality,” wherein more and more human activities are being translated into bytes. Work, communication, media, entertainment, friends, dating, sexuality, culture, shopping, politics and causes are among the growing number of human needs that have gone digital.

While the Internet was something which earlier we mostly visited, now we are inhabiting the virtual worlds full-time and engineer them according to our mental projections. The Cartesian dream of a mind without a body has almost been fulfilled (even though in his old age Descartes, in Passions of the Soul, affirmed that “the soul is jointly united to all the parts of the body”).

This separation has a long history of Western thought starting from the Judeo-Christian separation between body and soul up to people like the transhumanist Hans Moravec, the artificial intelligence researcher Marvin Minsky, or the singularity guru Raymond Kurzweil who want to download the biological human mind to a safer mechanical medium in order to achieve nothing less than immortality.

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Questions about the media

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Marshall McLuhan summarized his view of the media in a model called the tetrad of media effects. The tetrad asks the following four questions about any medium to evaluate its qualities.

1) What does the medium increase? For example, TV amplifies the view of the whole world from our homes.

2) What does the medium make obsolete? TV makes family communication obsolete.

3) What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolete earlier? TV provokes a re-tribalization and homogenization of cultures.

4) What does the medium turn into when pushed to extremes? TV can turn in a global Big Brother show where everybody is on the airwaves. TV as well can become a tool of social manipulation.

The number and role of the media in our lives having expanded exponentially since McLuhan’s times, both in terms of the time we dedicate to them and the scope of their applications in our lives, we need to probe the media with a broader range of questions.

I won’t consider the computer and Internet as individual media since they are sums of several media, both traditional and new. Using a computer to write, shop, program software, look at porn or read news are different modalities which involve different needs, though they share the same tool.

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Marshall McLuhan sintetizzò le sue idee sui media in un modello chiamato la tetrade degli effetti dei media. La tetrade usa le seguenti quattro domande per valutare un medium:

1) Cosa permette di espandere il medium? Per esempio, la TV amplifica l’immagine che abbiamo del mondo dalle nostre case.

2) Cosa rende obsoleto? La TV rende obsoleta la comunicazione all’interno della famiglia.

3) Cosa recupera che era divenuto obsoleto in precedenza? La TV provoca una ri-tribalizzazione e un’omogeneizzazione delle culture.

4) Cosa succede quando i limiti del medium vengono spinti agli estremi? La TV può trasformarsi in un unico Grande Fratello in cui la vita di ognuno è in diretta. La TV può anche diventare uno strumento di manipolazione sociale.

Poiché oggigiorno il numero e la funzione dei media si sono espansi in misura esponenziale rispetto ai tempi di McLuhan – in termini sia di tempo che dedichiamo a essi sia di loro ricadute nella nostra vita – abbiamo bisogno di vagliarli tramite più domande.

Non considererò i computer e Internet come media singoli, in quanto sono la somma di diversi media, sia tradizionali che nuovi. Usare un computer per scrivere, fare acquisti, programmare, guardare pornografia o leggere notizie sono modalità diverse che rispondono a bisogni diversi, benché usino lo stesso strumento.

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Not being able to stop

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A couple of years ago I started to write this short essay on the inner motivations and the addiction to production. At that time the environmental problem was already full-blown, but the crisis of energy sources which will be with us for a long time wasn’t felt yet.

I asked myself what the psychological roots would be and what conditioning was at the base of the addiction to production in the West, exported thereafter around the whole planet.

The origins of the compulsion for production and the resulting devastation of the planet date back to the interpretation of the messages spread by religions, particularly the Judaeo-Christian religions.

Christianity propagates messages regarding original sin and the impossibility of reaching the divine in human form. Those and other messages produce psychic double binds, like short circuits.

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The only way out for human beings was to redeem themselves, re-creating heaven on Earth through “virtuous” acts, ruling over nature for this purpose, as authorized by the Bible itself.

Religious statements made a sense originally as tools for the spiritual path, but those messages have been misunderstood by the ego in other ways.

Since this article is quite long, is available as a free e-book which can be downloaded clicking on the cover.

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Avevo iniziato a scrivere questo breve saggio sulle motivazioni interiori che stanno alla base della dipendenza a produrre due anni fa. Il problema ambientale era già conclamato ma ancora non si avvertiva la crisi delle fonti energetiche che ci accompagnerà per lungo tempo.

Mi sono interrogato sulle radici psichiche e sui condizionamenti alla base della dipendenza a produrre in occidente, poi esportata in tutto il pianeta.

Le origini della dipendenza a produrre e della conseguente devastazione del pianeta risalgono all’interpretazione dei messaggi diffusi dalle religioni, in particolare della tradizione giudaico-cristiana.

Il cristianesimo ha propagato i messaggi concernenti il peccato originale e all’impossibilità di raggiungere il divino in forma umana. Questi e altri messaggi hanno prodotto dei doppi vincoli psichici, dei corti circuiti.

senza potersi fermareL’unica via d’uscita per l’essere umano era rimasta quella di riscattarsi ricreando il paradiso in terra, tramite azioni “virtuose” e dominando la natura a questo scopo, autorizzati dalla Bibbia stessa a utilizzare la natura per i fini umani.

I messaggi della religione avevano un senso originario come strumenti per la ricerca spirituale, ma tali messaggi sono stati interpretati sul piano dell’ego nei modi che questo poteva.

Poiché l’articolo è piuttosto lungo, l’ho impaginato in forma di e-book gratuito che si può scaricare facendo clic sulla copertina.

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Disembodying at broadband speed

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Overcoming our identification with the body has traditionally been a mystical path, but that took place after having had a fully integrated body-mind-soul connection and having become aware of the full range of emotions and bodily sensations.

The split between body and mind in our society is still present and is further pushed away by long computer use where our bodies are involved in a minimal way, removing the connection in a premature manner.

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Tradizionalmente, il superare l’identificazione col corpo era parte di un percorso mistico, ma questo avveniva dopo aver integrato completamente la connessione tra il corpo, la mente e l’anima e dopo essersi resi consapevoli di tutta le sfera delle emozioni e delle sensazioni corporee.

La scissione tra mente e corpo è tutt’ora presente nella nostra società e viene ulteriormente ampliata da un uso prolungato del computer dove i corpi sono coinvolti in modo minimale, togliendo la connessione in modo prematuro.

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Porn 2.0

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The liberation to be internally free in having sex the way we feel like or to be free not to have it doesn’t come by merely acting out or by repressing the actual act, but by the level of awareness that we are willing to give our sexual needs, be them indulgence or asceticism.

With the pervasivity of porn we got desensitized towards sexual images and their relationship with our soul.  In this overwhelming input towards sex in society, a certain kind of independent porn could paradoxically reveal the vulnerable, human side and the connection with introspection.
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La libertà interiore di fare sesso nel modo che vogliamo, oppure di non farlo, non dipende dalla semplice espressione o repressione dell’atto sessuale in sé, ma dal livello di consapevolezza che desideriamo portare ai nostri bisogni sessuali, siano essi l’indulgenza o l’ascetismo.

Con il dilagare della pornografia ci siamo assuefatti alle immagini sessuali e al loro rapporto con la nostra anima. In mezzo a questo sovraccarico di input sessuali nella società, un certo genere di pornografia indipendente potrebbe paradossalmente rivelare un lato umano e vulnerabile, e un legame con l’introspezione.

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Superego orgasm 2.0

<h1><a xhref="http://www.indranet.org/?attachment_id=56">Orgasm</a></h1>There are many good reasons for saying that orgasms are good. They feel good. When a person has an orgasm with a partner, they trust the partner enough to release their control for a while and be taken over by an overwhelming energy.

Orgasms make us vulnerable; they show our intensity and we can let the other hear our deepest screams of pleasure. As a man, it’s beautiful to see and feel the shakti energy of a woman as she has an orgasm. Orgasms trigger the release of many hormones, among them oxytocin that induces feelings of love and bonding. They are good for health and circulation; they can start in the body but expands to the soul, or vice versa, representing a holistic experience for the person. Everybody could list more benefits for themselves.

But… Having “ordinary” orgasms seems not to be enough anymore. Clitoral orgasm is just for beginners. G-spot orgasm, trigasm, multiple orgasms and squirting are all musts now for a woman. Men usually don’t have any problem reaching an orgasm so the frontier for them is to become multi-orgasmic; having a 30-minute orgasm or reaching a prostate orgasm. Oh yes and than orgasms should of course be simultaneous.

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Cool, hot media and gender attraction

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During these very hot days in Italy a lightweight article about media and gender relationships. Marshall McLuhan as a media analyst coined the terms hot and cool media.

Hot media are those media that express an analytical, precise and well-defined message. Most of the visual media, especially the high-definitions one, are hot media. The message conveyed by hot media usually doesn't need much participation from the audience. For instance a movie is hotter than television since has a higher definition. Other examples of hot media are radio, the photograph, a lecture.

Cool media are those media that need the participation of the audience. Comic books and cartoons are cool media since the audience has to fill missing details. A seminar is considered a cool media since it requires an active role of the participants.

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In questi giorni di gran calura, un articolo leggero sui media e i rapporti uomo donna. Lo studioso dei media Marshall McLuhan ha coniato le espressioni media “caldi” e “freddi”.

I media caldi sono quelli che trasmettono un messaggio analitico, preciso e ben definito. La maggior parte dei media visivi – soprattutto quelli ad alta definizione – sono media caldi. Il messaggio trasmesso dai media caldi di solito non ha bisogno di molta partecipazione da parte del pubblico. Per esempio, un film è più caldo della televisione, perché possiede una definizione più elevata. Altri esempi di media caldi sono la radio, la fotografia, una conferenza.

I media freddi sono quei media per i quali è necessaria la partecipazione del pubblico. I fumetti e i cartoni animati sono media freddi, perché il pubblico deve riempire i dettagli mancanti. Un seminario è considerato un media freddo, perché richiede ai partecipanti un ruolo attivo.

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