… one day when a smudge of paint on his index finger took the shape of a face, a face that spoke to him and told him, ‘Paint sacred art.’ …

Rachel Maddux, “This Side of Paradise”

I have another tumblr called Stereotaxis; from the OED: 

Biol. and Med.

Involving or designed for the accurate three-dimensional positioning and movement of objects inside the brain.

When I decided to transfer my wordpress blog over here to tumblr, I also decided to fold Stereotaxis in as well. On the old blog, I described it as a neuropsychoanalytic microblog, which is about right: just stuff that I culled from the internet about psychotic speech, technological pluralization of the senses, artificial intelligences, and the little electrochemical ocean that washes around in our skulls. I’ll probably write up some meta posts about all the themes that little blog explored (usually with minimal commentary).

This is the first thing I would, in the past, have posted there. There’s something ineluctable about this pure voice which speaks from within as if it is from without, the echo that compels this person to reorganize the world in the name of God. 

Turing Centenary Speech (New Aesthetic) | Beyond The Beyond

My own problem comes when you’re an Artificial Woman Artist. Computation is demanding the aura of artistry that was commonly associated with cognition. That’s tougher, because now we’re back in the Turing Test interrogation cells, and I’m a woman, and you’re a woman, while that other woman there, the machine artist, is claiming to be Yoko Ono or Marina Abramovic.

Bruce Sterling on Turing, including a “What if Turing had been German?” counter-factual. What I am particularly fascinated by, however, is the Turing Test, which I believe says a lot more about the values of the tester, than the intelligence of the tested.

Obviously, this is a problem at the heart of science fiction, from Asimov’s laws of robotics, to Dick’s dreaming androids, to Peter WattsBlindsight. But it is also at the heart of literature more broadly as well, even if it is not so explicitly thematized. From Frankenstein to a nineteenth-century sentimental novel with it’s female protagonist-children, the striving for recognition, the carving out of new forms of life, can be seen as the very function of aesthetics

Sterling points out the way that Turing himself was in many ways, and even in spite of himself, an isolated figure throughout his life; his test for sentience, a good conversation.

He certainly would have understood the draconian length to which a society would go to truncate and exclude a form of life. Whatever its shortcomings, it comes as no surprise that he defines sentience not according to some universal (arbitrary) moral standard, but by the play of mutual recognition, reciprocal interiority, a relation established between two very, very different individuals. 

(h/t BoingBoing)

Turing Centenary Speech (New Aesthetic) | Beyond The Beyond

Ecology and “the passion of the Real”

My friend Brad Bolman has a new article out in the International Journal of Žižek Studies, “Seeking Peace, Finding the Violence of the Real: Traumatic Ecologies and the Post-Political Present.” The abstract:  

There is something queer about the social inability to act upon or to even fully think massive, impending ecological change. It is both obvious and confounding: on one level, we all know it is coming; on the other, we do not want to believe it and we refuse large-scale action to stop it. There is a game of political blame-shifting but there is also, and more importantly, an inability to ideologically engage with the contemporary ecological dilemma. Here I use the novel Butcher’s Crossing and the film Grizzly Man to investigate this dilemma through the psychoanalytic concept of “the passion of the Real.”

This is his second article for the IJZS (here’s the first), which is pretty impressive for such a young scholar (guess how young). 

Ecology and “the passion of the Real”

How To Survive A Plague | The Daily Beast

None of it would have happened as it did, if we had not been radicalized by mass death, stripped of fear by imminent death, and determined to bring meaning to the corpses of our loved ones by fighting for the basic rights every heterosexual has taken for granted since birth.

Andrew Sullivan’s review of the titular movie, this quote stands out for me, as I wonder about whether such appalling suffering and death is a necessity for the kind of activism Sullivan discusses …

How To Survive A Plague | The Daily Beast