Saturday, April 26, 2014

Final Project Madden

Dennis Madden
Final Project
Musings concerning the ‘Word of technique’ consistently spring complex analyses designed to monitor technology’s impact on the world. The non-neutrality of technology’s essence is questioned by Heidegger, who would go forth to claim “Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. Whatever is ordered about in this way has its own standing. We call it standing-reserve”(Heidegger 8). The acceptance of Heidegger’s conclusion has implications regarding the use of technology in society, but it is essential to note that by virtue of technology’s inherent non-neutrality, the very void left by the standing reserve being established is just as tumultuous as the mind of its creators. To assume the essential non-neutrality of an entity such as technology, one must also accept the non-neutrality of human nature. Non-neutrality is an amorphous characterization, as its valence is subject to constant change. As the function of a creator, technology is developed to ‘serve a purpose’, be it organizing, simplifying, elucidating, or entertaining, and this purpose being inherently reflected in the actions of the created entity. As humans, our eternity can be theologically taken as a technological design-product of the Abrahamic God: the eternal engineer. “Made in his image and likeness” is not just an optional intention, but instead it is an unavoidable truth that all creators must face. Victor Frankenstein’s Creature, the Tessier-Ashpool’s Wintermute, Aperture’s Glados, and even Will Navidson’s house on Ashtree lane all exemplify the role a master’s fingerprint holds in the actions and intentions of their created counterparts. I suggest that the non-neutral essence of a technological entity is be ionized by the moral and intentional valence of its physical and psychological creator, with the actions and intentions of said entities following a correlational (yet not parallel) path with the driving force behind their usage. In the aforementioned cases where technology develops independent sentience, it is not simply the user that defines the moral status of the used, but also the creator that defines the behavior of the created.
The governance of any one human’s actions by their personality and passion is the cardinal factor underlying the unpredictability of civilization. The propagation of human personality variance has fathered individuals spanning the spectrum of intention, from tyrants to pacifists, each of them acting based on their unique personality ‘program’. Developmentally, ‘nurture’ is understood to be an entity’s development as a function of behavioral interventions of a ‘parenting body’. Technologically speaking, nurture can be understood as the ‘developmental modifications’ that act on a technological entity after its ‘birth in idea’, as opposed to its birth as a completed product. Nature, in this paper, is taken to represent “an entity’s state of being before application of any outside influence”; for example, the research and probability assessments preceding the design and production of a technological entity are defined as its nature, while the actual ‘designing’ of the entity is considered part of its nurture.  When man designs a technological entity as a variant of his own intention, said entity undeniably shows characteristics both in accordance with, and starkly opposed to, the creator’s self. It is in this way that the ‘nature’ of the creator is critical for the ‘nurture’ of the created. Establishing analytical parameters based around the ‘five factor theory’ will allow us to examine the conflicts and correlations between the action-intention factor of the creators, and the same factor of the user-entities.
Model of the personality system according to five-factor theory, with examples of specific content in each category and arrows indicating paths of causal influence. Adapted from “A Five-Factor Theory of Personality,” by R. R. McCrae and P. T. Costa, Jr., 1999, in Handbook of Personality

          Five factor analysis of Wintermute, the AI construct of the Tessier-Ashpools makes for a solid foundation in the inquiry of conditional non-neutrality in standing reserve as a function of a creator’s nature. In a ideal scenario, the created entity accomplishes the intention of the creator. Marie-France, Wintermute’s ‘mother’, had envisioned “a symbiotic relationship with the AIs, our corporate decisions being made for us” (Gibson 229). “Wintermute was hive mind, decision maker, effecting change in the world outside…. Marie-France must have built something into Wintermute, the compulsion that had driven the thing to free itself….”(Gibson, 249). In essence, Wintermute acted precisely as he was designed to do (he made mommy proud). The relative psychological stability of Marie-Francie as a function of her (and the TA’s in general) isolation from the proceedings of the world allowed a stable, calculated environment for Wintermute to thrive in. McCrae et. Al lay down a premise which can be used to understand Wintermute’s development: “Both broad personality factors and the specific traits that define them are best understood not as characteristic adaptations, but rather as endogenous basic tendencies”  (McCrae, Costa, & Ostendorf, 175). Under the assumption that Wintermute obtained stable and immutable ‘basic tendencies’ through nuture as a function of Marie-Francie’s nature, we can consult the five-factor figure to see that external influences and dynamic environmental modifications could not derail the train of intention that Wintermute was. Wintermute happens to be the instance in which the creator manages to continue acting as a user, even in absence, while the created entity itself is that which propogates its own technology.
          While it is clear that Wintermute followed both the action and intention of its creator as a virture of nurture as a function of the creators nature, this is not always the case. In the case of GlaDos, the Aperture Science mechanical mastermind responsible for overseeing the test facilities, a seemingly streamlined and rational developmental premise turns into nurture gone awry. “The idea of thinking machines evolved together with the insight into the human ability to create systematic methods of rational thinking” (Hallevy 1). While GlaDos was designed with a seemingly inert purpose in mind (proceeding over tests in the Aperture Facility), a flaw in her basic tendencies resulted in a developmental anomaly that proceeded to corrupt her to no ends. It is impossible to design a systematically thinking rational machine with neutrality, because the platform which we base it upon (humanity) is inherently non-neutral. Cave Johnson, previous head of the facility, decided that it would be a brilliant idea to capture the mind of his asslstant Karen and embody her in GlaDos. The uprooting of human cognition into a machine not aptly suited for its maintenance is sure to cause discrepencies between the actions and intentions of creator versus those of the created. GlaDos, while her intentions were in line with those set down by Cave, exhibited a set of actions that were characteristcally deviant from the intentions of her creator. GlaDos represents technological and existential independence which runs amok by virtue of a glitch in character adaptation, where her user-creator has long since lost influence, yielded to the inherent transfer of his nature to her early in development.
         The third instance can be illustrated by the Creature of Victor Frankenstein. Because the Creature represents a relatively complicated piece of biological technology, it is important to use him to contrast the two rather typical pieces of sentient technology before him. The Creature is a direct result of Victor’s misdoings in both action AND intention, and Victor’s instability is clearly mirrored in the actions of his creation. When Victor initially expressed dismay over the Creature, he had assumed himself to be a user. “It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet” (Shelly 53). To him, it seemed as if the Creature was only existent as a result of his own work: he had gathered the materials and the research and used it to instill life into a previously lifeless being. This accumulated notion of responsibility haunted him to the extent that he saw himself accountable for the Creature’s actions. Surely Victor was responsible for the design of the Creature’s physical being, and by virtue of his own natural flaws, the Creature was devoid of proper nurture. In this way, both the action and intention of the creator create a multitude of developmental flaws which, in this case, are not only grounded in basic tendencies, but also in experiential modulation throughout the subject technological entities existence.
          The inherent differences between technological entities and creators illustrated above can be carefully distilled into rather apparent similarities. The intent (or lack thereof) to create a technological entity for a purpose is what destines the disposition of the standing reserve it serves to create. Wintermute was a success in that his undertakings set the grounds for the TA’s to in essence ‘never have to work again’. When his action-intention profile demonstrated a perfect transfer of rationality from his creator, he established an environment in which humans could proceed positively with little unfortunate consequences. On the other hand, the moral standing of GlaDos left behind a dystopian superstructure in the Aperture Facilities: one that was capable of sustaining human interaction through intention, but disfigured by illicit action. The Creature, who never truly seemed to have an action-intention profile in the first place, left a void that was clearly destructive to humans in both action AND intention, demonstrating a doubly-destructive transfer of corrupt nature, as well as lack of formal nurture. Marcuse speaks a piece which can shed light on this triplet “Science, by virtue of its own method and concepts, has projected and promoted a universe in which the domination of nature has remained linked to the domination of man- a link which tends to be fatal to this universe as a whole” (Marcuse 166). The ‘science’ behind the creation of each of these three aforementioned technological entities is that which can both promote and destroy the intended results of technological design, based on the nature of the scientist in charge.
          Man seems to be fully dominated when he chooses to design something that he does not understand. For a technological entity to match the cognitive processing of its creator, it must do exactly that, without uncertainty. Five factor analyses of both creator and creation implies that the biological development of an entity is the strongest force behind its disposition, but that environmental factors can yet change its overall effectiveness. The attempts to create a human-based intelligence that can solve unpredictable human problems (such as one might find considering self consciousness, objective awareness, and perceptual shift brought upon by environmental events) can only succeed if the inherent uncertainty of human development is incorporated. When Victor Frankenstein attempted to create a ‘perfect’ being, better than himself, he crossed a line which resulted in the invalidity of his creation. The Creature, though it was created ‘perfect’, lacked the necessary imperfections of mind that would allow it to proceed appropriately as a technological success.
          “Under this aspect, ‘neutral’ scientific method and technology become the science and technology of a historical phase which is being surpassed by its own achievements- which has reached its determinate negation. Instead of being separated from science and scientific method, and left to subjective preference and irrational, transcendental sanction, formerly metaphysical ideas of liberation may become the proper object of science” (Marcuse 233). The neutral methods spoken of here may simply be taken to represent the techniques of development leading into a technology: not the intention or nature of the creator responsible. Marcuse suggests here that philosophy might more perfectly be integrated into technology, so that in the future specific parameters might be established for the moral grounds of a technology as a function of its creator. In this way, the non-neutrality of technology can be taken not simply as a blanket term, but instead be given specific values explaining exactly how benevolent or malevolent said technological entity might come to be.
          Technology as it has been discussed in this essay is but a mere sliver of technology as a whole. The particularly interesting relationship creators have with sentient technological entities is a unique place to begin when assessing the degree of nature-nurture transfer between producer and product, but it can also certainly be brought into the realm of more realistic technological objects. The necessary relationship that any piece of designed and created technology has with the moral valence of those who are responsible for ‘birthing’ it is something that must be further analyzed so that imagination might serve as a better guide than strictly calculated probabilities when it comes to technology affecting the world in a more-than-a-little-insignificant type of way.
          “Thus, in the process of civilization, the myth of the Golden Age and the Millennium is subjected to progressive rationalization. The (historically) impossible elements are separated from the possible ones – dream and fiction from science, technology, and business” (Marcuse 188), but the absolute implications of said elements are yet to be fully ascertained. In order to keep from going backwards in civilization, these impossible elements must be utilized in such a way that the quantification of the human person results in a technological template responsible for creating technology that does not just create a standing reserve, but also merges the standing reserve in a human way with those who are actively present in the affected society. The developmental transfer of the creators image to the creation does prove that the human spirit is present in everything it comes into contact with, but care must be taken to ensure that the deposition of said spirit is done with enough poise such that it does not degenerate the very object it seeks to create.


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