Wednesday, February 4, 2009

group 1 carnot's second law

On the 22nd page, Lyotard writes: “I'm granting that the disembodied intelligence that everything here conspires to create will make it possible to the challenge to that process of complexification posed by an entropic tidal wave which from that standpoint equates the with the solar explosion to come. I agree that with the cosmic exile of this intelligence a locus of high complexity – a centre of engentropy – will have escaped its most probably outcome, a fate promised any isolated system by Carnot's second law – precisely because this intelligence won't have let itself be isolated in its terrestrial-solar condition.” This passage perhaps best explains the posthuman/human dichotomy so present in science fiction and exemplified in Katherine Hayle's book. To understand this, first one must define the characteristics of what makes one human. In Renaissance humanism, a human is defined by specific attributes as a part of all humans, a claim that human nature is autonomous, rational, capable of free will. Lyotard exemplifies the posthuman in this context; the posthuman holds all of the traditional traits of what makes us human, but without the constraints of nature.
Lyotard's comparison of negentropy vs entropy and Carnot's second law (which says that all isolated systems tend towards maxium entropy) is the underlying distinction in the posthuman. Indeed, entropic systems from a literature perspective can be seen as the limitations of the natural world, and in extension, the natural body, unenhanced by a utopian science. This discorporeal intellgence refuses to be inhibited by the natural world – it “challenge[s the] process of complexification posed by an entropic tidal wave.” This intelligence is a “locus of high complexitiy” and a “centre of negentropy,” the opposite compliment to entropy.
There are too many constraints placed upon us by nature that science may seek to overcome. No matter what, everyone who has ever lived, or will live dies. This is most obvious cruelly indifferent constraint to humanity; and even as a prime example, that is only one piece of natures creul indifference. Chance and circumstance, placing humans into restrictive social and gender roles, not based upon free will and choice, but based upon the current deterministic state of the world at the time of birth (and up to death), the existentialists argued were the major factors in determining one's path in life. While certainly not a strict definition of entropy, this lack of choice and inevitable can be easily extended to a metaphorical explanation of Carnot's second law. No matter what happens to us, the inevitable heat death of an isolated system, such as our planet and even our Solar System, will affect us all.
The posthuman, however, does not need concern himself with the inhumanity of Carnot. The posthuman possesses all of the hopes, dreams, and intrinsic atttributes of a human without these terrible limitations. He need not even concern himself with death, which is certainly liberating to any single person. With eternal life through artificial intelligence, the human need not let “itself [be] isolated in this terrestrial-solar condition.” This network of artificial intelligences propelling itself out of the solar system to escape its impending doom can itself become more purely human from the perspective of Renaissance humanists without the limitations of nature. And that thought, pending the difficulty of such an engineering feat, should be the most exciting thing of all for everyone.


david lloyd said...


John Whitehead said...

Dave good piece overall. just a few areas of clarity I think you can improve upon.

Describe more what YOU are referring to as a posthuman so the reader is clear on what you're description is.

I think your connection of second law and the literature is weak, or carnot's vague. You need to not just state this connection between the natural world : natural body : and literature. or atleast the connection to literature.

However, your connection with the opposite of complexity is good stuff and either focus more on that or reorder the paragraph so that comes first.

Also, is complete disconnection from death and explosion of the solar system more human than having arms and legs and living in nature or something crazy like that? Is mere disobedience of Carnot's law the sole definition of humanness? ask yourself these kind of questions when revising. I can see how this may very well leave the realm of this class so don't sweat it too much if you don't do any of that.

Let me just say that your last half of this paper is very strong and I would encourage you to focus on your connection with the humanness in relation to disobeying Carnot's law. Overall i would say just clarify a few terms and think of it from a perspective of someone who doesn't get the whole entropy thing.

final words: Clarify the definition of posthuman and lose the literature reference to carnot.Build more on your connection between humanness and Carnot's law.

Adam Johns said...

John - good response

Dave - You pick a fascinating passage, and you show a great deal of facility in working with it. That being said, the fundamental issue here is your own relative lack of focus. What, at the end of the day, do you have to say? It seems that ultimately you want to basically reaffirm Lyotard, after having explained him, in some ways, through a whirlwind philosophical tour. At times, it seems a little too much like you're providing annotations, although those annotations are quite good. I would have liked to see a more organized response, in other words.