Self as Computer

Self as Computer

Alan Radley (University College London, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7377-9.ch011
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The present chapter considers the computer not as a tool, or as a bicycle-for-the-mind, but simply as self. The authors argue that humans are becoming so enmeshed with the computer, in terms of how we think, act, and communicate, that soon it may no longer be possible to identify where the self ends and the computer begins, and vice-versa. It follows that if such a postulate holds any truth, computing systems must be carefully designed to preserve, and not to harm, human rights. Predicted by some are marvelous benefits for technology, in terms of enhancements to our social, creative, and personal lives. But already clear is that not all of the associated problems lie in the realm of speculation. One example is that the Internet is moving ever further away from the free and open system as foreseen by its original designers, whereby citizens are routinely censored, controlled, and spied upon.
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Humanistic Computing

As we become ever more involved with, and dependent upon, computers; it may be that our essential nature is being shaped and/or changed as a result. It is prescient therefore to study the nature of an emergent phenomenon; the self as computer (merging of self with computer), and in terms of a deeper, broader and more comprehensive inquiry. Ergo we can learn: who we were, who we are and who we may become.

This chapter concerns the nature of mankind’s relationship(s) to/with machines. Probable is that our survival and ultimate destiny as a species, depends on the development of appropriate technologies (and especially computers). Thus careful planning is essential when it comes to our technological future. To get the ball rolling, we formulate a strategy for an ideal human-computer relationship, and postulate a society so arranged as to benefit all; and we call such a society the technopia. A key feature of the technopia is the establishment of natural human rights (techno-rights) with respect to a technological society; combined with appropriate and human-centric information usage; and so to ensure that machines interact harmoniously with humanity (Wiener, 1954).

Wiener urged us to ask the right questions with respect to machines, and this chapter is an attempt to do the same. Our approach is to find human-centric solutions for the problems of an increasingly computer-centric future. But the future is at the same time marvelous and dreadful, known and unknown. The issues are complex because technological issues are intermingled with social, economic, and environmental ones etc. Yet the stakes are so high, that it is beholden on each writer to make his position known.

Paramount, in my view, are three (new) human rights:

  • Ownership of one’s own thoughts.

  • Atomic organization of, and free access to, all knowledge.

  • Open (atomic) publication of ideas/votes.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Distributed Data: Refers to a special kind of computer network where data units (self-contained pieces of information) is/are stored on more than one node (or physical location).

Data Immortality: Is defined as a data type which is inherently indestructible (or which strives to attain such a status), and/or to data which has an exceptionally long life time (or “lives” effectively fore-ever and so is not susceptible to localized corruption or loss.

Human Enhancement Technologies: Are techniques that can be used (not only) for treating illness and disability, but also for enhancing human characteristics and capacities.

Technoself: Refers to the idea that human identity is shaped /changed by the adoption of new technologies and the relationship between humans and technology.

Data Atomization: Refers to the storage of self-contained data units (documents, file etc) on a massively distributed network, and in such a manner that each data unit is split onto a large number of tiny segments (or atoms), the same being atoms which are replicated across the network for later retrieval. There are many copies (perhaps 1000’s) of each atom to foster accessibility, redundancy and data immortality.

Self-Centric Data: Is defined as a massively distributed data type which assigns (for the first time) full ownership rights to the creator.

Open Publication: Is where anyone can publish anything to anyone, and is defined as the capability of a person (e.g. the user of a computer network) to publish content without censorship.

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