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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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You Can Tell What Somebody is Like by the Company They Keep

At the end of September 2009, an experiment done at MIT on social network analysis could identify which students are gay just by considering the data available on their Facebook pages. Through analyzing their online friends and the connections between them they could infer their gender preferences with a degree of accuracy. This raises more questions about online privacy.

I wrote in Google, Privacy and the Need to be Seen that we are apt at showing ourselves online in trying to fulfill the natural human need for mirroring, to be seen and understood, which probably hasn’t been actualized in the proper way at the proper time in our lives. Also, our skills for self-recognition and inner mirroring is becoming weaker and weaker because of the growing pressure from external inputs, mostly by the Net. No time for reflection and no empty space.

Social network analysis can infer much more about us than our sexual preferences. The ordinary mind in itself, as most spiritual teachers say, is quite mechanical in its behavior. Joining this mechanistic nature of the mind with the amount of available data which most people spontaneously show on the Net is such that a well-written software could guess many of our ideas, opinions, tastes and, most important for marketers, which products we’ll be willing to buy.

Psychoanalysis, neuro-linguistic programming and any other science of the inner being knows well that our beliefs and ideas are for the most part created by the conditioning acquired during our lives, especially in childhood.

Marketers have a special aptitude for cataloging people on the basis of their personalities, attitudes, lifestyles and preferences. But they aren’t interested in understanding the roots of those attitudes or in going beyond them. More than anything else, marketers are interested in the conditionings which have been created through a compensation for an undeveloped inner quality.

For instance, we might “need” some sort of external appearance (goods, clothes, gadgets, make-up, muscles or a slim figure) to compensate for a weak sense of self-worth, or we could need to connect frequently with people online because we aren’t able to keep in touch with our inner self and for the lack of authentic real-life relationships, thus needing computers, connections, smartphones and such gizmos.

Marketers, as well as psychoanalysts or spiritual teachers, are interested in knowing us and our conditionings, but the former are interested in making them stronger, reinforcing our “needs” instead of liberating us from them.

The understanding of marketers of the human soul is quite superficial since they don’t really need to go into the depths of people’s souls to exploit their weaknesses commercially, as much as a pusher doesn’t need to know the reasons why his client needs drugs.

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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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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

Dali - A Couple with Their Heads Full of Clouds[en]

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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