computation

A-Life

"The question, at which point we draw the line between living and non-living is not a scientific question.The line between living and non-living at the beginning of evolution is arbitrary, just as the line between human and non-human primates at the end of evolution is arbitrary.The task of science is not to define the exact position of the line but to understand how it came to be crossed."

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automaton

automaton

In Aristotle's sense of the term, automaton means sheer random happening, and tyche refers to some cause and effect sequence outside the usual pattern of development. In more current usage, an automaton would be a bit of machinery exhibiting somewhat complex behavior but completely lacking in awareness. An automaton is a "self-moving" machine, and the development of control mechanisms led to the possibility of programming automata. 

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computation

In the 1930's logicians and mathematicians like Turing, Church, Gödel, and Post contributed to the path-breaking exploration of the mechanical computational process. They became for computers what Watson and Crick would become for biotechnology. Subsequently philosophers like Hilary Putnam and Jerry Fodor developed what is now called the computational theory of the mind, in which information and computation reside in patterns of data and in relations of logic that are independent of the physical medium that carries them. 

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hypertext city

hypertext city

As a conceptual framework, Hypertext provides a specific means of configuring issues sourrounding the confrontation of cyberspace and the city. It does so by embracing the advent of the electronic realm and the proliferation of networked links while at the same time interpreting these technological transformations as part of the project of writing. More specifically, studies of hypertext have focussed on the history of writing as technology, on the potential for hypertext to change the relationships between reading and writing, to alter the demarcations between the inside and outside of the text, and to change the nature and role of narrative. For its proponents, hypertext is the mode of writing that articulates the sociality of the network, that promises democratization and the empowerment of the individual, and that rearticulates themes that writing and the city have been seen to share: in the construction of memory, in the relation between movement and the subject, and in the production of space through abstraction and narrative. 

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hypertext

hypertext

In the July, 1945 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Vannevar Bush, who had served as the first director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, the agency established by Roosevelt to coordinate federally funded defense research, published an article entitled "As We May Think." In it, he pointed out the increasing gap between the growing mountain of research and the inadequacies of methods for transmitting and reviewing its results, which he blamed in part on the artificiality of systems of indexing. He suggested that the human mind operates by association. "With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain." He proposed "a mechanized, enlarged, and intimate supplement to an individual's memory, a future device" which he called a "memex" using electro-mechanical technology as a device for associative indexing, a reading and writing machine that would allow "wholly new forms of encyclopedias to appear, with a mesh of mesh of associative trails running through them." Users would create "endless trails" of links...exactly as if the physical items had been gathered together from widely separated sources and bound together to form a new book."

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mapping

mapping

A "map" takes points in one space (the source space) to certain points which the map identifies as the "corresponding points" in another space (the target space). Wittgenstein calls these "logical spaces." Symbolic structures which obey a system of rules for translation are isomorphisms, structural homologies. Thus the mapping amounts to a distorted image of the source space on the target space. Language maps thought on to sound. An input/output function can be understood as a mapping. Thus the toaster executes a function mapping from bread to toast, and the groove on a gramophone record maps to the sounds. The psycho-physiological problem in mechanistic psychology becomes a problem of point-to-point mapping of mental functions such as language and memory on to the brain. (see mind /brain )

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vision

Any theory of vision must describe some relation between the eye and the brain. Humberto Maturana studied the visual cortex of the frog and summarized his research in an article entitled, "what the frog's eye tells the frog's brain." Maturana and his co-authors demonstrated that the frog's sensory receptors speak to the brain in a language that is highly processed and species specific. If every species constructs for itself a different world, which is the world? Thus Maturana's credo: There is no observation without an observer.(K. Hayles, "Simulated Nature and Natural Simulations," in Uncommon Ground.) Further research led Maturana to conclude that perception is not fundamentally representational, that the perceiver encounters the world through his own self-organizing processes, through autopoesis.

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