The Logics of Initiation | The Cybernetic Challenge

[preliminary abstract for the Interactive Media Arts Conference IMAC 2012 in Copenhagen  / accepted May 29]

In the short story “Mimse go the Borogoves” written by Catherine Lucille Moore and Henry Kuttner under the pseudonym of Lewis Padgett, and for the first time published in 1943, a box with children toys that originate in future’s time and place is sent to Earth. A young boy finds it and carries it home. He can play with some of the toys and make sense of them, but he cannot fully understand them. They present riddles to him. While he is at the borderline of understanding the toys, to his parents - ‘conditioned by Euclid’ - they remain absolutely obscure. It is the boy’s younger sister - still unconditioned by language - who seems to understand best the toys’ spatial configuration. And thus, from this understanding of a different order, she draws an exit, and both the children escape the world of prediction.

Wouldn’t we all want to escape this world of prediction?

The story “Mimse go the Borogoves” was included by editor Gotthard Guenther in a volume that translated for the German speaking audience a series of American Science Fiction short stories. The volume was published in 1952. In his editorial comments entitled “The Overcoming of Space and Time” Gotthard Guenther wrote:

[…] who experiences that there are more intensive and higher forms of spiritual life, than are represented through the human Gestalt has no other chance but to desert from humanness. For it is the categorical responsibility of consciousness to realize in itself the highest form of experience that it can possibly realize. (Guenther, 1952, p. 232)

Gotthard Guenther published his first major work, a book whose title translates to “Idea and Outline of a Non-Aristotelian Logic”, in 1957. History tells us that, a few years later, Heinz von Foerster received a phone call from Warren McCulloch suggesting him to invite this strange logician who is understood by no one. In 1960, Gotthard Guenther joined Heinz von Foerster’s Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he stayed until 1972.

This article develops on the idea of second order cybernetics as a logics of initiation – feasible exclusively on the basis of a theory that extends the well known binary logic that has been dominant in the Western world since the times of classical metaphysics. Openness is intrinsic to the logics of initiation. It is logic - within this context - that the history of cybernetics often appears to be resistant against the classical form of a scientific historical narrative as a history of ideas. It may be best understood as a history of events.

Time: Mar 17, 22:58 GMT

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