Thursday, February 14, 2008

I feel like Hayles' discussion of the relationship between speech, writing, and code just wasn't all connecting for me. Hayles frequently alludes and almost necessitates the computer as the translator or extension of the human user. Her discussion of speech writing and code is confounded by the variable of the computer as an additional entity, an "add-on" or "plug-in" to human knowledge/consciousness, an additional connection in the speech-writing-code comparison that does a fair amount of conversion [and conversation] independent of the human user. She addresses this problem towards the end, "At the heart of this difference is the need to mediate between the natural languages native to human intelligence and the binary code native to intelligent machines." But I think perhaps she patches this up too neatly, suggests a sort of happy collaboration and mutual understanding between machine and human and perhaps glosses over an inherent disconnect, an irreconcilable difference between man and machine. Hayles optimistically cites machine as "a mind amplification tool," the rise of "expressive medium." Yes there is a trend of object-oriented programming, of "anthropomorphizing" the machine and "computationalizing" the human, but where does this convergence end? To what extent are machines and human compatible? How close can we become until we start to reject each other? People already reject computers very much. Especially the older generations who tend to be intolerant of it, they reject it like a food that makes them ill. How much can man and machine become alike each other until there begins to be friction--until we start antagonizing each other, making each other sick, becoming unable to cohabitate? It's interesting that at one point Hayles says the pastiche of code and English "might be called a creole," bringing up a racial component that she doesn't discuss much at all. But if machines become almost fully anthropomorphized, wouldn't it bring up questions of race, or species, and re-ignite the human inability to coexist with our differences? A fully humanized machine race, with a different appearance (or perhaps not) and a different language.

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