Review of The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is

The Morality Of Attention

“The quantity of creative genius [at a time] is directly proportional to the quantity of extreme attention present during that time”, Simone Weil, in Gravity and Grace

To properly attend to something…is to relinquish control of the meaning it holds for you, to allow it the potential to become something else, something unfamiliar within the context of your prior range of references

What is the internet? It sounds like a difficult and deep question but actually the answer is: this bike. Image credit.

The Possibility of AI

In order for the analogy to hold, we have to suppose that as our AI gets “better” it may start doubting, willing, sensing etc, rather than simply “running”. But this is an enormous supposition to make, and the defenders of the simulation hypothesis generally make it without argument….Bostrom invites us to suppose “that these simulated people are conscious”, and then adds parenthetically, “as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct”. But this position’s recent popularity is not itself an argument for it….

Metaphor

The ecology of the internet, on this line of thinking, is only one more recent layer of the ecology of the planet as a whole, which overlays network upon network…prairie dogs calling out to their kin the exact shape and motions of an arriving predator; sagebushes emitting airborne methyl jasmonate to warn others; blue whales singing songs for their own inscrutable reasons, perhaps simply for the joy of free and directionless discourse of the sort that human beings — now sometimes aided by screens and cables and signals in the ether — call by the name of chatting

As Paul Ricoeur has argued, metaphor arises “from the very structures of the mind,” and in this respect is at least as worthy of being taken seriously by philosophers as any literal proposition. This is particularly so when the human mind keeps returning inexorable to the same metaphors…[and] sometimes the structures of the mind are powerful enough to pour out of the mind, and to impose themselves on our built reality as well. Manners of speaking become manners of world-building.

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