15.432 interpretation, understanding, knowledge

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty (w.mccarty@btinternet.com)
Date: Fri Jan 04 2002 - 05:59:13 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 432.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi (63)
             Subject: Interpretation of digitalization of world technology
                     in the views of Heidegger and Kierkegaard -A Call for

       [2] From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi (112)
             Subject: Social Tele-Embodiment: Understanding Presence

       [3] From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com> (44)
             Subject: A Call to Knowledge

             Date: Fri, 04 Jan 2002 10:45:10 +0000
             From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi
             Subject: Interpretation of digitalization of world technology in
    the views of Heidegger and Kierkegaard -A Call for

    If German philosopher Martin Heidegger and Danish 'wacko' philosopher
    Soren Kierkegaard would have been alive today, then they would have felt
    sorry to see the present condition of Information Superhighway and the
    fight between man and machine, and increase towards the postmodernity
    (false praises of modern high-tech) Regarding these issues, Martin
    Heidegger thought it led to superficially instead of deeper dwelling.
    Kierkegaard would have similar reactions, though he did newspaper columns
    to some extent. Heidegger is agreeing with Kierkegaard when he claims that
    we need to be more authentically ourselves, and too much distraction keeps
    us from facing our own mortality and the need to affirm our own deepest
    needs and projects. We end up accepting a general and levelled down
    identity that we get from public images and pressures, instead of
    creatively facing up to our own need to take up what has been given us (by
    God, for Kierkegaard, by our Age and Being, for Heidegger) in creative and
    resolute ways. Here, both are a bit too much in love with the idea of
    lonely hero, but Kierkegaard is more careful when he talks of the ways in
    which his "knight of faith" might be indistinguishable from his fellow

    In the end, I would like to quote Albert Borgmann from "Opaque and
    Articulate Design" (depicts Soren Kierkegaard) as "Cyberspace has no fixed
    boundaries or places. We revel or despair amidst everything and nothing."
    and Soren Aaby Kierkegaard as "Life is not a problem to be solved but a
    reality to be experienced."

    Kierkegaard might well have denounced the Internet for the same reasons. I
    will spell out Kierkegaards likely objections by considering how the Net
    promotes Kierkegaards two nihilistic spheres of existence, the aesthetic
    and the ethical, while repelling the religious sphere. In the aesthetic
    sphere, the aesthete avoids commitments and lives in the categories of the
    interesting and the boring and wants to see as many interesting sights
    (sites) as possible. People in the ethical sphere could use the Internet
    to make and keep track of commitments but would be brought to the despair
    of possibility by the ease of making and unmaking commitments on the Net.
    Only in the religious sphere is nihilism overcome by making a risky,
    unconditional commitment. The Internet, however, which offers a risk-free
    simulated world, would tend to undermine rather than support any such
    ultimate concern. (As quoted by Hubert Dreyfus in "Kierkegaard on the
    Internet: Anonymity vrs. Commitment in the Present Age")

    In his essay, The Present Age, written in 1846, Kierkegaard warns that his
    age is characterized by a disinterested reflection and curiosity that
    levels all differences of status and value. In his terms, this detached
    reflection levels all qualitative distinctions. Everything is equal in
    that nothing matters enough that one would be willing to die for it.
    Nietzsche gave this modern condition a name; he called it nihilism.

    In Europe around l850 the new importance of the press accentuated an
    essential feature of language, viz. the dissemination of information and
    thereby introduced the first revolution in information technology (IT).
    Soren Kierkegaard responded with a devastating critique of the curiosity
    fostered by the media and condemned in advance what he saw as the
    uncommitted and dispersed spectator that would be produced by the new easy
    access to information. Commitment to information as a boundless source of
    enjoyment puts one in what Kierkegaard called the aesthetic sphere of
    existence. Such a life is typified by the net-surfer who is interested in
    everything with no distinction between the trivial and important, the
    quantitative and the qualitative.

    Your thoughts, ideas and repercussions are welcome!

    Thank you!
    Best wishes,
    Arun Tripathi

    Dr Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer,
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London,
    Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K.,
    +44 (0)20 7848-2784, ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/,
    willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk, w.mccarty@btinternet.com

             Date: Fri, 04 Jan 2002 10:46:03 +0000
             From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi
             Subject: Social Tele-Embodiment: Understanding Presence

    Dear Humanist scholars,

    In the rush into cyberspace we leave our physical presence and our
    real-world environment behind. The internet, undoubtedly a remarkable
    modern communication tool, _still does not empower us to enter_ the office
    of the person at the other end of connection. We cannot look out their
    window, admire their furniture, talk to their office mates, tour their
    laboratory, or walk outside. We lack the equivalent of a body at the other
    end with which we can move around in, communicate through, and observe
    with. But two famous computer scientists, at University of California,
    Berkeley are trying to use tele-embodiment techniques by combining
    elements of the internet and tele-robotics, and it is possible to
    transparently immerse users into navigable real remote worlds filled with
    rich spatial sensorium and to make such systems accessible from any
    networked computer in the world, in essence Tele-Embodiment. At last, we
    will have to see, how much presence and embodiment can be delivered by
    Ubiquitous telepresence and tele-technology.(Reference: Ubiquitous
    Tele-embodiment: Applications and Implications, Eric Paulos and Johny

    "Cyberspace presents us with a dilemma. We are physical beings who
    experience the world through our bodies. The notion of a separation
    between abstract mind and physical body has been battered and eventually
    buried by western philosophers since Kant. In its place came new ideas,
    important among them phenomenology, articulation of perception and action
    as process involving mind, body, and world....But cyberspace has been
    built on Cartesian ideals of metaphysical separation between mind and
    body: When we enter cyberspace, even a 3D world, it is the "mind" that
    enters. It may be regaled with an exotic 3D form, but such a form is an
    avatar only for the mind. The body stays outside." (from Tele-Embodiment
    and Shattered Presence: Reconstructing the Body for Online Interaction,
    John Canny and Eric Paulos)

    When we enter cyberspace by leaving our body behind (as an avatar), as
    John Canny and Eric Paulos mentions in his article, "It is seen as a mere
    transducer, moving text or audio data in through keyboard or microphone,
    and catching data from monitor and speakers." After putting this argument
    in front of their readers, authors ask an interesting and important
    question as "If we build avatars that *look* realistic enough, shouldn't
    the virtual experience be equivalent, or possibly better than the real?"
    The biggest danger and most likely outcome at this time is that we will
    succeed (from a Cartesian standpoint), but the resulting experience will
    still be second-rate. The auhors intelligently argue that, "from an
    epistemological point of view, we may be convinced by the sight and sound
    of the virtual world, but we will not be satisfied by our interactions
    with it", and further authors put an interesting argument as, "the
    experience of being in the world is much more than merely observing it."

    By taking the above issues in context--here is an excellent article
    "Social Tele-Embodiment: Understanding Presence" written by Dr. Eric
    Paulos, Computer Science Department, University of California, Berkeley,
    CA and Prof. John Canny, Computer Science Department, University of
    California, Berkeley, CA appeared in Autonomous Robots 11 (1):87-95, July
    2001 published by Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    According to the abstract: Humans live and interact within the real world
    but our current online world neglects this. This paper explores research
    into Personal Roving Presence (PRoP) devices that provide a physical
    mobile proxy, controllable over the Internet to provide tele-embodiment.
    Leveraging off of its physical presence in the remote space, PRoPs provide
    important human verbal and non-verbal communication cues. The ultimate
    goal is a computer mediated communication (CMC) tool for rich natural
    human interaction beyond currently available systems. This paper examines
    PRoP design choices, system architecture, social issues, and evaluations
    of several user studies.

    The main problem authors describe as..the view of "body-as-transducer
    ignores the role of the body in motor-intentional acts. Computer
    scientists in the article _Tele-Embodiment and Shattered Presence_ try to
    discuss the computer-mediated communication (CMC) from classical and
    phenomenological perspectives. John Canny and Eric Paulos are building
    simple, internet-controlled, untethered tele-robots to act as physical
    avatars for supporting CMC. These devices are called as Personal Roving
    Presence devices or PRoPs. These PRoPs are built to approach
    anthropomorphism of _function_. This includes they should support at least
    gaze, proxemics (body location), gesture, posture, and dialogue. They are
    "body-like" because human-interaction is an intensely body-centered
    activity. They exist not in a virtual world but in the physical world. So
    they interact directly with people (rather than another avatar) or groups
    of people. One important property of PRoPs is that --by operating in the
    real world, PRoPs expose the differences between natural human interaction
    and CMC.

    Current computer mediated communication tools such email, chat, and
    videoconferencing have increased our social tele-connectivity. They allow
    us to exchange text, images, sound, and video with anyone whose interests
    we share, professionally or socially, regardless of geographic location.
    But for many applications something important is still missing. Existing
    tools fail to provide us with an adequate interface into the real world in
    which we live, work, and play.

    The research of Dr. Eric Paulos describes one such approach towards
    solving this problem with simple, inexpensive, internet-controlled,
    untethered tele-robots or PRoPs (Personal Roving Presences). PRoPs strive
    to provide the sensation of tele-embodiment in a remote real space. The
    physical tele-robot provides several verbal and non-verbal communication
    cues including: audio, video, mobility, directed gaze, proxemics, and
    simple gesturing. PRoPs also enable their users to perform a wide gamut of
    human activities in the remote space, such as wander around, explore,
    converse with people, and hang out.

    For more information please visit <http://www.prop.org>

    Thank you!

    Yours, sincerely
    Arun Tripathi
    Dipl-Inform. M.S. Arun Kumar Tripathi
    Research Assistant
    E-mail: <tripathi@informatik.tu-darmstadt.de>
    Phone +49 (6151) 16 - 4267
    Fax +49 (6151) 16 - 3052
    Office S1-13/07
    TU Darmstadt - FB 20
    FG Telekooperation
    Alexanderstrasse 6
    D-64283 Darmstadt


    Dr Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K., +44 (0)20 7848-2784, ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/, willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk, w.mccarty@btinternet.com

    --[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Fri, 04 Jan 2002 10:49:20 +0000 From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com> Subject: A Call to Knowledge

    I have been exploring a curious interaction between humanism and science and computers called Indiscriminate Terrorism, and in the process learning much about generalizing fuzzy multivalued logics, mathematical probability-statistics, the concepts of existence and the universe, and many other things that may interest members of humanist. See abstracts of 67 of my papers (publications, papers presented, technical reports, and some of my better internet contributions), at http://www.logic.univie.ac.at, Institute for Logic of the University of Vienna (after accessing the site, select ABSTRACT SERVER, then BY AUTHOR, then my name in that exact order).

    I cannot guarantee that all or most of it fits into a humanist computer, but some of it should.

    The picture that is emerging is that of a struggle between knowledge-orientation and materialism-orientation, even among people who claim to be interested in spiritual matters. The difficulty is that not only is the road to hell paved with good intentions, but that it seems to be also paved with an orientation to only manipulate the material world rather than to seek knowledge. Theoretically, one could have both, but life is often like a game or perhaps a stage, in which one decides in favor of one side or the other, one principle or its negation. For much of the world, knowledge is only something to be used for materialistic ends, something to be manipulated in the way that some sociocultures manipulate women like cattle or worse. Religion then becomes a cover for materialism, and allies itself with those who look for the concrete rather than the abstract, who obsess with the specific rather than the general, who thrive on intradisciplinary and in-group rather than interdisciplinary and inter-group. It allies itself with those who choose one pole when there are many alternatives - those to whom competition means killing off the other side rather than nurturing multiple viewpoints indefinitely, valuing only the multitude and not the individual, valuing only the individual and not the multitude, valuing the past and not the future, and so on.

    It allies itself with all the injustices of the past, selectively chosen of course to avoid one's own responsibilities and questions such as why one could not have the initiative to improve one's lot if the other side did have the initiative to improve their lot. It allies itself with finger pointers who see nothing but incredible poverty in a part of the world and see incredible wealth in another part, and ignore the closest relatives and neighbors of the impoverished people whose wealth is never used to improve the situation of their closest relatives and neighbors. It allies itself with naive people to whom all minorities are automatically heroes because there are so few of them in their nation - regardless of whether the minorities are actually comparable to psychopathic stalkers who stab people in the back and cannot confront them face to face.

    Do take a look at the abstracts. You can always return to the computers when things get too numerous for human beings to track.

    Osher Doctorow

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