14.0196 what if we succeeded?

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Sat Aug 26 2000 - 09:38:01 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 196.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 10:36:12 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: what if we succeeded?

    I recall a story, ascribed in my memory to Tibetan sources, to the effect
    that if all the names of God (mutatis mutandis) were spoken, the universe
    would cease to exist. There is, I think, a science-fiction story that plays
    on the same notion -- as I recall, a computer had been programmed to come
    up with these names, and as it generated them the stars winked out one by one.

    On this grey, overcast London morning I was thinking about tests for
    creative genius, IQ and similarly computable measures when the above story
    came to mind. And so the following thought experiment. Let us suppose that
    we devised a test which worked; let's say it worked flawlessly. What then?
    Ok -- the answer is obvious: having put the light of knowledge out we'd be
    sitting in darkness, if "we" and "darkness" continued to have any meaning.
    Perhaps a more interesting question is: how does such a silly enterprise as
    (if you will) uttering all the names of God differ from the attempt at
    technological progress? What ARE we getting at?

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
    voice: +44 (0)20 7848 2784 fax: +44 (0)20 7848 5081
    <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
    maui gratias agere

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