The Enlightenment is Dead, Long Live the Entanglement
Danny Hillis 4 Contributors
June 18, 20189 Versions


@article{TheEnlightenNaN, title={The Enlightenment is Dead, Long Live the Entanglement}, author={Danny Hillis}, year={NaN}, note={version: undefined}, publisher={PubPub}, }


Danny Hillis. (NaN). The Enlightenment is Dead, Long Live the Entanglement. PubPub, [https://www.pubpub.org/pub/enlightenment-to-entanglement] version: undefined


Danny Hillis. "The Enlightenment is Dead, Long Live the Entanglement". PubPub, (NaN). [https://www.pubpub.org/pub/enlightenment-to-entanglement] version: undefined


Danny Hillis. "The Enlightenment is Dead, Long Live the Entanglement". PubPub, (NaN). [https://www.pubpub.org/pub/enlightenment-to-entanglement] version: undefined
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And our process of creation is very different.
One of the issues hinted at here and very critical at present is the issue of authorship. Where does any given idea come from? Who is responsible for it and how should they be recompensed? How can we even begin to work that out?
There's a lovely little book by an artist called Daniel Spoerri, called 'The Topology of Chance'. It was published in the sixties*. In it he looks at the plate of food on the table in front of him and traces every particle - including plate and cutlery - further and further back. Where was the plate made? Where did the clay come from? How is clay made? etc. What's so nice about it is that you realise that everything, even the most mundane thing, has roots going back and back to the dawn of time; and that almost every natural process somehow impacted on its development. The more I think about the genesis of 'creative work' the more I recall that book. Tracing where any piece of art or science comes from is astonishingly complex and ultimately futile - because even if you could name all the threads in that tapestry you can't retrospectively assess the relative value of them. It's chaos theory worked backwards. All of us who make our living from some notion of 'ownership' of ideas - like copyrights, for example - are starting to recognise this dilemma. Indeed, one of the big challenges of Entanglement is how we pay for things and get paid for them. It isn't a trival question: I imagine that our solutions to that problem will entail some new kinds of thinking that may lead us to a whole body of new philosophical ideas - economics leading philosophy. Wouldn't be the first time (whispers Karl Marx).
A lovely example indeed here of how "zooming" in and out of problem spaces can give us different perspectives towards a resolution. If, for example, we stay within existing / prevalent consumerist/capitalist models, we may ask: "How do we ensure authors get a "ding!" at every sale?" Zooming up however, we may ask, for example, "Is that necessary if the author's living wage is covered by the state or some other institution? As long as no one is profiting beyond recovery of costs and re-investment…" And as Mr. Eno says, nothing prevents us from finding new models at either level. In fact, I think we must.
Brian, Kirby Ferguson produced a thoughtful and eloquent 4-part indie movie series that I think is related to what you mentioned above about the book, The Topology of Chance. This book is now on my list of things to read, but I wonder if Kirby knew of it when he made his series. Also related, three years ago I proposed a project for the Knight News Challenge that was inspired in part by Kirby's series but mostly by Harvard Law Professor William Fisher's CopyrightX course. I think there's a whole lot of room for social experiments to study what you wrote: "...how we pay for things and get paid for them." Flattr is one interesting alternative.
'What is an author?' by Michel Foucault might be of interest - a short and thoughtful piece on the history of the idea of authorship. http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Foucault-AuthorFunction.html Elsewhere he once suggested that as an experiment all books should be published anonymously for a year or two to see what happened. Interesting, but impossible under the present formation of commercial publishing. On the academic publishing front the open access movement is struggling against big capatalist beasts such as Elsevier to give birth to a new way to circulate ideas.
In which case, all things are derivative and there is nothing new. Sounds dull.
Luckily, with new tools we can actually trace back the particles of clay. Not just in a theory kind of way, but in a legitimate carbon dating, molecular marker kind of way. Which is, one could say, a very new and different way of creating information. The article speaks of a non human method of design. While this, like every single thing ever, comes from the base matter of the universe, using that as a metric for makes everything inconsequential. Fun for philosophy, but not great for designing houses, or music, or whatever.
What's even more interesting is that the copyright system can be seen to be a capitalist conclusion from this "all things are beholden to the source" mentality, which I believe you are pointing out. The solutions to these issues are probably not that new (even those most mundane things have roots), but are exposed in those "Gods of the Copy Book Headings" that Kipling spoke of.
This discussion is licensed under Creative Commons. It's not a new idea. It's called sharing. I learned that before I could walk. We've just spent a long being taught how to not do that.
So, maybe there is nothing new, but at this point, it is pretty different.
I agree that attribution / authorship is a muddled concept and always has been. It's interesting, even in low-tech formats, to compare the attribution models across media. In academia, citations in theory track the provenance of all key ideas and facts, whereas in recorded music, performance art, etc. there is no real analogue. Of course something approximating it is forced by the legal regimes around sampling in music, but nothing comparable exists for "conceptual sampling." I've always thought it would be cool if an artist could annotate a soundcloud-like player with the sources/references behind particular moments.
The final blow to the Enlightenment will come when we build into our machines the power to learn, adapt, create and evolve.
This is my concern. We are children playing with power tools -- blithely unaware of the havoc we might wreak.
Children do wreak havoc. They also create and inspire wonder. Omelettes and eggs and all that.
Chris, I like the poignant analogy but I think that your concern is everyone's concern. The question is whether or not we can build cultures and institutions that allow us to utilize "power tools" to engender flourishing, while simultaneously safe-guarding us against mailce and folly.
my concern is the our culture acceleration. the negative impact of power is mitigated by slowing down and retaining a committment to diligence. the current paradigm existentially forces this dangerous acceleration because we are all absolutely aware that if "i don't get it done first" somebody will sweep in tomorrow at take the cake.
I think competition can be allowed to persist so long as it is counterbalanced by institutions whose purpose it is to ensure that it does not give way to wrecklessness. For example, if the EPA was even close to as robust an organization as the FDA, fracking with chemical leakage would unlikely have ever made it to market. I share your concerns but see them less as a problem stemming from competition, and more as a political shortcoming resulting in an inability to appropriately regulate markets.
Reminds me of P Teilhard de Chardin's ideas about evolution. Forward the Mind! (organic or other)
"We can no longer see ourselves as separate from the natural world or our technology, but as a part of them, integrated, codependent, and entangled."
Codependency, in a psychological framework, generally suggests an unhealthy behaviour exhibited by an individual, who gives of oneself to another, at the very expense of oneseself, to satiate an unhealthy fear of abandonment, or as another expression of emotional need, with origins in learned coping mechanisms and survival methods developed in dysfunctional childhood environments, to respond to unmet, fundamental, emotional needs
I can only wonder then, if the author chose this word 'codependent' advertanly, or inadvrtantly, to describe the human relationship to this new world of entangled nature and technology?
Where the lines of discipline, relationship, and even existential purpose are blurred, for what exactly is it that nature and technology depend upon each other to achieve?
It is argued by many of those who work in the field of psychology that the illness associated with codependncy can be overcome through self-healing, whether mediated or self-directed, using various tools for overcoming reactionary, subconscious, psychological responses.
A critical question for humans, in the early childhood of this new age, is how do we navigate, negotiate, and direct these entangled relationships of nature, technology, and the human experience, in ways that are functional for us, healthy for us, and which meet our fundamental needs?
I am not using the term “codependent” in the clinical sense, but our co-dependencies with technology certainly have the potential for becoming pathological. Our co-dependencies with other people and with technology can confer great advantages, but they also come with risks.
We can no longer see ourselves as separate from the natural world or our technology, but as a part of them, integrated, codependent, and entangled.
Particularly fascinating in light of the argument about the Apple v. FBI case that iPhones are more analagous to our minds than safes.
With the exception of the powdered wigs, the authors of the Constitution are little different (just fewer) than the authors of wikipedia: almost entirely white guys, mostly in their 20s.
(As much as I enjoyed Danny's article, and have been following his writing since Day One of The Media Lab, I am disappointed he plays PC politics here. I'm looking forward to the "Age of Entanglement" for at least that reason: less PC, more collaborative reality.)
I think you overstate your case. While it is true that the demographics of WIkipedia contributors are very different that of the general population, it would be difficult to argue that they are not a vastly more diverse and inclusive group than the authors of the US constitution. They do tend to be white and male, but the are many important contributors and leaders who are not, and it is not true that they are "mostly in their 20s".
We continue to grasp at a reasonable means by which wealth can be distributed in an equitable fashion, not only so that each has the means of survival and opportunity that a wealthy and democratic society wishes to purvey, but the very meaning of wealth reflects its many forms. The concept presented here re-frames the economic argument for a sharing economy as a philosophical one, and does so rather well.
Such processes lend themselves to collaboration among multiple machines and multiple humans because the interfaces between the parts are fluid and adaptive. The final product is very much a collaborative effort of humans and machines, often with a superior result.
What is needed is a science of collaboration that combines diverse sets of machines (eg ensemble theory, random forests), with diverse sets of humans. In contrast with the rhetoric of Singularity, one might call this Multiplicity.
That's SNARC. "C" was for "Calculator".
All enlightened people just go into 3D and are in greed of having material golds and etheric power. And what church provides.
In the last age, the Age of Enlightenment, we learned that nature followed laws. By understanding these laws, we could predict and manipulate. We invented science.
Science predates the Age of Enlightenment....
The scientific revolution began towards the end of the Renaissance period, yet I would argue that science as we know it today is a product of the Enlightenment, when the great scientific academies and societies were formed and began to dominate the intellectual discourse.
Isn't it the case that the Age of Enlightment IS the age of science?
Mr. Hills, your article is wonderfull!! The most natural in our world today is technology. This is our nature,
I totally appreciate your vision. I agree that the article is excellent.
Can we really say that technology is our nature? This makes me shutter to think: Is synth the new, natural form of music, casting aside the instruments that brought about the sounds?
Those instruments are tech too. We've been making tech since we sharpened our first hand axe.
progress in the Age of Entanglement is synthetic and comes from putting things together.
"You have constructed your own little machine, ready when needed to be plugged into other collective machines." - D&G (from 1000 Plateus)
In doing so, we will give them the power to surpass us, to shape the world and themselves in ways that we never could have imagined.
I'm getting a type of post-humanist vibe from this. Maybe we could suprass "the human" (so to speak) instead of us being "left behind".
Think of the canonical image of collaboration during the Enlightenment: fifty-five white men in powdered wigs sitting in a Philadelphia room, writing the rules of the American Constitution. Contrast that with an image of the global collaboration that constructed the Wikipedia, an interconnected document that is too large and too rapidly changing for any single contributor to even read.
Reading this makes me think of a Global Constitution, i.e. a collaboratively constructed set of rules.
I think that brings about the excellent point: things become too large for any single contributor to even read, which brings about Design as Participation.
To paraphrase Henry Rollins, "I don't think we can do it, but I think you can do it."
Let's not think of a Global Constitution as the order, but rather your participation here, and my participation here, and another's participation elsewhere as the new order.
An interesting piece but is there any evidence that humans have ever NOT been intimately intertwined with their creations? If not the rest of the article falls rather flat on its face. One only has to look at the artefacts in the recent celtic exhibition at the British Museum to recognise the degree of physical and emotional investment in objects produced several thousand years ago.
We certainly had physical and emotional investment in our creations in the past, but there was little difficulty drawing a distinction between the character of the created and the creator.
We began to build systems with emergent behaviors that were beyond our own understanding, creating the first crack in the foundation.
Do you mind giving an example?
Programmed trading systems on the stock market.
Programmed trading sytems on the stock market.
A.I. would be an example of this, no? Much like the discovery of nuclear power. During testing and implementation, the consequences were not fully known. It was a milestone as well as a productive and destructive power.
"Thus, within this monument to Enlightenment thinking, we sowed the seeds of its demise." Danny Hillis
Machine learning algorithms that technology companies implement in their products (Google search etc) are beyond engineers' full comprehension.
There's no way to know how a neural net makes the associations it does (in a discrete, Enlightenment-closed system sense) as the probablisitic associations it derives happen at a layer hidden from the designer/engineer. It "just works" and gets more accurate as users feed it more data.
One of the more interesting real world implications of the what I describe is the EU antitrust cases against Facebook and Google.
In Google's case, no one can fully account for why Google search recommends their own products over others. It's quite possible the AI that makes interwoven through Google's products (it's about 1 billion lines of code) was recommending it's own apps and services as users fed it more data. The system logically concluded that since they're part of the same platform users would simply find it convenient. No one knows though. The neural net's inputs are too numerous (every Google user's uploads and searches etc) and varied to fully account for and it's physically impossible to fully visualize a neural net's hidden layer in a easy to understand way.
. Biologic is an example of both the process and the aesthetic sensibility of Entanglement.
Working in design and fabrication, often the question which comes up is "Why create this particular thing? What story will it tell after we have informed it?" Will this thing we design continue to adapt and change beyond our designer/creator intent because the form of the design interacts/adopts/adjusts to its purpose? How quickly is that change applied, or is the form static and is it interpretation over time which will compose the form's aesthetic? Of all the writing here, I am most intrigued by this last statement which is the process and the aesthetic- and how we as designers and fabricators may begin a process to see it evolve and find relative place in the tangle.
This whole article reminds me a lot of "The 3D Additivist Manifesto"
. It’s root’s
Too bad its roots are in bad punctuation. Understanding homophones matters.
Simulated biological processes do not understand the system in the same sense that a human designer does.
Yet, luckily, the end result may be understood by a designer to a large extent (e.g. organs in a body). Maybe the best fusion will be achieved when we learn to contribute our designer's understanding to an evolving system in real time. Rather than passively watching it.
You vastly overestimate our understanding of biological systems...
The relation to parts to function is more complex in a biological systems than in an engineered systems, but I agree that they sometimes have have parts with understandable function, for example the heart pumping blood. These doesn't happen always, but it happens enough to require an explanation. Why should evolution make parts with narrow functions, when it can also make integrated functions that emerge holistically, like the immune the system? I think the answer has something to do with what is easy to evolve. I think the same modularity that makes organs understandable also makes it easier for them to evolve under natural selection.