Thursday, January 24, 2008

Graded Blog, Question #1

What I assumed would be a half hour long read soon escalated into an almost 6 hour long struggle of flipping through the dictionary, understanding double negatives and making sense of syntaxes that are not in a traditional English order. English is not my first language; although that is not an excuse it certainly provides an explanation of my limited vocabulary and outright confusion with this text. I had to look up so many words that at times I would forget the beginning of the paragraph by the time I arrived at the end of the same paragraph. Although after hours of investigation, I feel that I arrived at some conclusions about this text.

Why does Lyotard have to make this piece of literature so difficult to understand? The answer to this seems quite logical to me, actually. The main point Lyotard has argued in this essay was that the complexity of the human mind is far beyond what technology is able to replicate or achieve, which is why he appears to frequently use methods that do not follow a clear order or system.

Allow me to further explain this problem concerning order. Computers are based on pattern recognition and order. Randomness in computers is in fact an impossibility. Everything a computer can generate follows an algorithm. The computer cannot randomly generate a variable for its algorithms; it always chooses a variable based on an internal mechanism (usually the processor’s internal clock). The human mind is able to generate completely random variables and I think Lytard is trying to show us this with the randomness of syntax in this essay. No machine would be able to behave exactly like a human, or at the very least speak with such random variety as a human.

This style of writing does not follow a clear or traditional pattern. The complexity of human language provides almost infinite ways to articulate notions and ideas. One of the popular mechanisms the author uses are double negatives. The intricacy of double negatives is endless and the meaning of a word in relationship to another word and the whole phrase inversed and reversed again means that the whole is almost impossible to understand if one does not put the fragments together to form this whole which then has an actual meaning. This concept is very similar to a puzzle. Lyotard wants to make the point that this type of analysis is too complex for a machine to understand, even if machines were to be able analyze and break down the random syntax scattered such as that displayed throughout the essay.

“I’m granting that human beings aren’t and never have been the motor of this complexification, but an effect and carrier of this negentropy, its continuer.” This sentence alone took me almost twenty minutes to analyze and fully grasp. It is a particularly important phrase in one of the concluding paragraphs of this essay. The problem, once understood is actually quite simple: “What is the complexification of negentropy?” According to the dictionary, negentropy is negative entropy. Entropy is chaos. Negative chaos therefore must mean order. The complexifcation of order consequently must means “increasing order.” Thus we can conclude that Lyotard was saying that humans are not bringing more order to the world, but they are continuing this trend of creating order. In broader meaning, the paragraph was explaining that the world is getting away from a chaotic state and slowly becoming very ordered. Lyotard further explains the complexity of intelligence and how it does not necessarily rely on logic and order. However that is exactly the nature of machines’ intelligence which relies on these two factors and the is core of this essay’s argument: the impossibility of artificial intelligence

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

The first thing that needs to be said here is that your difficulties are understandable, especially when you add in one more difficulty: Lyotard is a French philosopher, and we're reading a translation. So you're reading an imperfectly translated article based on a notoriously difficult original text, and your first language isn't English - your difficulties are understandable!

Anyway, your breakdown of a very difficult sentence is quite nice. The one thing I'd add to your analysis is to re-emphasize Lyotard's claim that we are not the motor, but the "effect" and "carrier" of negentropy. Curiously, that makes us sound almost like a disease, which I think is his intention - if you look at the previous post's emphasis on suffering, there's something to that.

What's missing in your analysis (and understandably so) is Lyotard's curious turn towards the central imporance of gender - I think that's something we'll talk about in class.