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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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Information Dopaminated

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When I learned to program, the most-used computer programming languages were C or Pascal, languages based on the structured programming paradigm where the development of the procedures and the program structure were to be planned carefully, sometimes with elegance. However, this type of programming made the management of exchange of information with external events or with other programs or procedures more complicated.

At a certain point programming languages developed into event-driven programming, where procedures are activated on the basis of the messages which come from other software or from the user’s inputs, for example, by a click of a mouse or an input through the keyboard. This type of programming first gained prominence when graphic interfaces like Windows appeared and later with complex Internet communication.

Therefore, the execution of software takes place as a rebound of an input between programming modules which are continuously affecting each other. This type of programming is usually based on object-oriented programming languages, which, at the end of the 1990s imposed themselves on the structured and procedural programming model.

We continuously interact with the Net and with other technologies like mobile phones, sending and receiving information in a pace increasing according to technological advances. Just as software responds to events, users have also started behaving in the same way, becoming servomechanisms of technology and an integral part of the galaxy of stimuli-actions.

We fit ourselves as one of the modules which respond to events. As inputs, we have myriads of information and sites, and as outputs we click here and there. This produces new information and the mechanism becomes self-fed.

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Quando imparai a programmare, i linguaggi maggiormente utilizzati erano il C o il Pascal, linguaggi che si basano sul paradigma della programmazione strutturata, in cui lo svlgimento delle procedure e la struttura del programma andava pianificata con cura e magari con eleganza. Questo tipo di programmazione tuttavia rendeva più complicato gestire uno scambio di informazioni con eventi esterni o di complesse interazioni con altri programmi o procedure.

Ad un certo punto i linguaggi di programmazione per computer si sono evoluti nel modello ad “eventi”, dove le procedure si attivano sulla base di messaggi che giungono da altre parti di software oppure da un input dell’utente, ad esempio un clic del mouse o un input da tastiera. In particolare questo tipo di programmazione si è imposto con l’avvento delle interfacce grafiche tipo Windows prima e poi con la complessa comunicazione di Internet.

Quindi l’esecuzione del software avviene come un rimbalzo continuo di input tra moduli di programmazione che si influenzano a vicenda. Questo tipo di programmazione si basa di solito su linguaggi di programmazione ad oggetti, che verso la fine degli anni 90 si è imposta sul modello della programmazione strutturata e procedurale.

Interagiamo in continuazione con la rete e con altre tecnologie tipo i cellulari, mandando e ricevendo informazioni ad un ritmo che cresce con l’avanzare delle tecnologie. Così come il software risponde agli eventi, anche gli utenti hanno iniziato a comportarsi come tali, diventando servomeccanismi delle tecnologie e parte integrante della galassia di stimoli-azioni.

Ci siamo inseriti come uno dei moduli che rispondono agli eventi. Come input abbiamo le miriadi di informazioni e siti e come output clicchiamo qui e là. Questo produce nuove informazioni e il meccanismo si autoalimenta.

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