The Morality of Artificial Intelligence

An important component of being human is having the liberty to pick among numerous possible actions. It is these selections we make that– integrated with environmental elements– make us each an individual. The existence of individuality is of essential importance since it is in this assortment of choices that we each make that create so many different types of us: the paradigm-shifting wizards, the mass killers, the entirely ordinary, and so on.

One issue that arises when reviewing moral AI is if that liberty, and also individuality, would be present. Perhaps latent in the term “robot” itself is the notion that restricting a personally intelligent machine such that it is incapable of behaving immorally would limit its flexibility. If a machine operated in such a way, it could not understand the gravity of making an immoral decision, and it might be difficult to set apart that machine from various other instances that (always) operate in the same manner.

Nevertheless, this is not how we might anticipate creating ethical artificial intelligence. As opposed to creating preprogrammed “ethical drones” that are unconsciously constrained from behaving immorally, we might create an AI that knew the full range of feasible choices, but always (or at a minimum, almost always) behaved ethically. The distinction here is that our machine itself would ‘want’ to behave ethically. By getting rid of whatever transformative propensities for unethical actions, we might expect our machines to “feel accurately” and also not only acknowledge the correct course of action, but to seek it willingly (as the repercussions, however delayed, would be identified to be preferred course of action).

Freedom is a necessary part of being human, as it enables specific decisions in direction, yet can we know just what it is to be good (and to make the necessary ‘good’ choices) if there is no contrasting bad? The answer is a tentative yes. If we eliminate the propensity for wickedness in AI, we do not always lose the capacity to distinguish good. As an example, I do not need to kill to know that it is bad. If wickedness has to exist in some form, then perhaps a memory is necessary as a deterrent.

It is evident that free choice on its own does not make up uniqueness, something important occurs throughout a conscious creature’s life that makes us each an individual. Maintaining this in our AI would certainly be important to ensuring the same one-of-a-kind development that results in producing both genius and the ordinary. Instances need to be unique as well as plastic: that is, every AI needs to be produced according to a general blueprint but they need to be very flexible. This would enable individuality in addition to learning and developing gradually.

Exactly how would we accomplish improving the moral behaviour of a robot? This is undoubtedly speculative, but it is possible that amplifying the function of mirror nerve cells might cause more moral behaviour. Mirror nerve cells ‘mirror’ perceived actions as neural activity in the beholder ie. when you recoil at the view of another person suffering, it is thought that your mirror nerve cells are active in a comparable unpleasant pattern as the suffer’s, perhaps producing a need to help remove their discomfort. A mirror reaction powerful enough might implant the Golden Standard of moral behaviour such that any kind suffering might create a widespread effort amongst AI to alleviate it.

However, developing a race of artificially intelligent machines is not itself ethically acceptable given that “using” them to aid our own lives does not afford them the appreciation they would be entitled to as conscious creatures. While it is at the very least in theory possible to produce AI that behaves much more ethically than us, the price to do so would be too high. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer.

The Onward March of Feminism into Traditionally Male-dominated Arenas

Traditionally, the stereotypical picture of a DIY-fuelled bank holiday is that of a over-worked male wearily working his way through a catalogue of home-improvement or repair tasks. However, new research challenges this idea, claiming 60 % of women are more probable to be carrying out residence enhancements than their spouses.

There are a variety of reasons for this escalating number of female DIY-ers. Firstly it would seem that 50 % of women assume they are actually much better at tasks around the home compared to their partners. This coupled with an ever-declining amount of males taking on Do-It-Yourself activities.

Other research in the United States has already concluded that the decrease in the number of males performing such activities is credited to fathers no longer passing down the necessary skills required and tech know-how now being regarded as more important than brute strength. A noteworthy factor is the current rise in female home ownership. Single women today represent more than one in five family units. But also the rise in power tool technology has obviated the need for the male-muscular physique. Today, female DIY-ers can rely on technology to achieve their goals and with the Internet readily supplying information on everything from the latest reviews on air compressors to how to build an outhouse, the playing field has been decidedly levelled when it comes to home-improvement know-how.

ADHD and the Metaphor of “Memory Retrieval”

In an article entitled “Looking Differently at ADHD,” Julie Hail Flory reframes so-called attention deficit in terms of “memory retrieval”, or the “failure of active maintenance.”

It happens to us all – you walk to the refrigerator, open the door, then stand there, unable to remember why you went to the kitchen in the first place.

You may call it a brain cramp, but in psychological terms, it’s a “failure of active maintenance,” and it could be a key to decoding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, according to Brad Gibson, a University of Notre Dame associate professor of psychology whose research looks at the link between memory and the disorder in adolescents.

But how compelling would this analysis be without recourse to technological metaphors? What is gained, scientifically speaking, by referring to simple forgetfulness by the cumbersome phrase, “failure of active maintenance”?

Further, if this simple, everyday example is an example of ADHD, then how is ADHD abnormal? How is ADHD a “disorder” if its “symptoms” are so universal? It would seem that institutions and authorities are essential to forming a distinction. (If you forget why you went to the fridge, it’s simple forgetfulness, but if you forget why you raised your hand in class, it’s a “condition”.)

Which is why the technological or computational metaphor is so important. It suggests that the information or knowledge is ‘in there somewhere’, only something is blocking its retrieval. The kind of memory described by Flory is quite literally a computer’s memory, even though, for the same author, what ultimately determines recollection are institutional standards of propriety, educational norms, and industrial metrics.

“What we’re finding is that kids with ADHD tend to retrieve more irrelevant information; so they’re coming up with things, but they’re not really relevant, they’re not the items from the list,” he says. “Right now the challenge is to come up with measures that can accurately assess their weaknesses.”

What, then, constitutes irrelevant information in a memory game? Or, to put it differently, could information considered irrelevant in this game be found relevant in another? The author, however, says nothing of the criteria buttressing this decidedly non-computational judgment, even though, to be sure, the whole argument comes down to this fine distinction.

So, what began, or what ends up seeming like, a distinction between attention and attention deficit really boils down to a hidden, and it would seem largely unquestioned, distinction between relevance and irrelevance, topicality and tangent. What seemed at first to be a matter of retrieval failure has become, in fact, the successful retrieval of improper information, which is a different ‘problem’ altogether. And in this regard, one can’t help but wonder whether a rather limited and unhelpful theory of learning is merely labeling as deficient those who, for whatever reason, learn differently or are less available to the current educational model. Those they say are attention deficient to everything, because of their ‘brains’, might just be attention deficient to them, because of their method.

Endowing the News

David Swensen and Michael Schmidt make the case for turning newspapers into non-profits funded by a university-styled endowment. But is it necessary to characterize print news as what’s saving us from the dirty internet, that “‘cesspool’ of false information”? The New York Times is, after all, by all international standards one of the least credible sources for foreign news. Would it be so bad if it slipped away?

Readers turn increasingly to the Internet for information — even though the Internet has the potential to be, in the words of the chief executive of Google, Eric Schmidt, “a cesspool” of false information. If Jefferson was right that a well-informed citizenry is the foundation of our democracy, then newspapers must be saved.

Although the problems that the newspaper industry faces are well known, no one has offered a satisfactory solution. But there is an option that might not only save newspapers but also make them stronger: Turn them into nonprofit, endowed institutions — like colleges and universities. Endowments would enhance newspapers’ autonomy while shielding them from the economic forces that are now tearing them down.

Reflections on the peer supervision process

About five months ago the head psychiatrist at the clinic where I work approached me about starting a peer supervision group for the Interns and Externs training there. He wanted to construct a space where they could present and discuss their cases, receive feedback from their peers and also raise any issues that they were having in the clinic. As a 5th year psychology Intern, I was the most senior training clinician (it feels as much as an oxymoron as it sounds) and we agreed that it would be my responsibility for creating this space. Our initial discussions outlined the goals of the group, that it would be voluntary, confidential, open to all the trainees, run for twelve weeks, and that each week a different clinician would present a case for discussion.

However, we were less clear when defining my role and exactly how I would create the space for this to occur. We contrasted the pros and cons of the traditional group supervisor role to the supervisor as a group facilitator. While the former provided more in the way of structure and boundaries we were concerned about it feeling like a therapy group or clinical rounds. Indeed, having established collegial and friendly relationships with the clinicians it was important to be clear that the supervision group was not a therapy group. Alternatively, the latter appeared to engender more space for open discussion but provided less structure and clarity around roles. After going back and forth over the differences, we agreed to use a facilitator model. In this model, I was responsible for bringing the group to a beginning and an end, ensuring that there was a presenter each week, and generally facilitating discussion. We also decided that I would not present my own cases and that I would generally try to allow others to answer questions so that they would not be directed at me. Having established the framework, we ended our conversation with the psychiatrist sounding the ominous and prophetic warning that he had never participated in a successful peer supervision group.

As the group started and began to meet weekly, some of the outlined aspects worked well. Notably, some members appeared to benefit from presenting cases and being given an open forum to ask questions. Furthermore, clinicians felt they could discuss issues they had in the clinic in a confidential area. However, as predicted by the psychiatrist, for the large part the group did not feel like it ever took off. Attendance was spotty from the second week onwards, robust discussions were sparse, and much of the group process seemed to go through me.

Succinctly, the group never seemed to take ownership over itself. While there are likely many reasons and contributing factors for this, reflecting back over the course of the group I am struck by how much my own role influenced the development of the group. Specifically, I believe that I failed to commit to the role of group facilitator. Instead, I moved back and forth between supervisor and facilitator and by not being consistent limited the group’s growth. In hindsight (which is not always 20/20) this is not surprising and seems to me a product of the ambiguity inherent in peer supervision groups, and my own ambivalence towards authority.

There are two important differences to peer supervision groups and other forms of groups, including regular supervision groups, therapy groups, and even support groups. The first is that in peer groups, the members either already know each other, or will at some point through their interactions come to know each other. Thus, unlike other groups, where members maintain little contact with each other outside of the group, in a peer supervision group they frequently interact outside of the group. Secondly, in other groups, the supervisor or leader is typically a more experienced clinician, whose role and position is defined, however in peer groups all members are expected to contribute equally.

The result of these differences is that the boundaries established in other groups to ensure safety are less pronounced and more ambiguous, meaning that the peer supervision group members themselves have to establish trust amongst each other. Although this may seem easy, it is as I learned actually a complicated process requiring a lot of faith and an ability to tolerate vulnerability. Without a supervisor to orientate around (more on that in a minute), group members are asked to establish trust through the act of discussing cases with their peers. This is potentially frightening, case discussions reveal aspects of us as therapists or individuals that we may not be aware of. Doing so in an ambiguous setting, with colleagues we trust, but perhaps not entirely, is daunting, difficult, and anxiety provoking for even I imagine experienced clinicians. Compounding these obstacles, is that many of the trainees were just starting to gain clinical experience and may have felt vulnerable and out of place discussing their experiences with others. It is not that the members did not explicitly trust each other, as much as the valence of the group pulled them away from easily building trust with each other.

One of the ways of lessening anxiety – or countering this valence – is for the supervisor to take an active role in running supervision, establishing boundaries regarding member interaction and a consistent structure for the group to follow each week. In doing so, individuals come to know what is expected of them less through their interactions with each other, than with the supervisor, who acts as an anchor for them to orientate around. Two of the most likely configurations are that either supervisee’s develop trust in the supervisor and it expands towards the other members, or alternatively, they develop trust in each other and perhaps later the supervisor. In either case, the supervisor’s role is defined by stability and consistency.

Notably, while trust can develop amongst all the parties, the power differential of supervisor and supervisee remains. Peer supervision offers the opportunity for a greater balance of power. Each individual can temporarily step into different roles, each taking turns at supervising, facilitating, being supervised, etc. In other words, by giving up the traditional role of supervisee (or group member) and managing the anxiety that comes with it, other interpersonal relationships are possible.

However, not only does the supervisee have to give up their role, but the supervisor as well. Indeed, while I thought that I was ready to do this, in retrospect it proved more difficult than I anticipated. In trying to establish the space for peer supervision I was also (although likely unaware of it at the time) moving away from my own basis of security. In this sense, much as I was asking the supervisee’s to handle anxiety by giving up their role, I was also asking myself to deal with anxiety of not having a clear role either. This process seemed to entail an interesting paradox whereby in order to give up authority I first had to use it.

Broadly speaking, initiating a group already entails a certain relationship between supervisor and supervisee’s (initiator and initiates), although as already described the aim of this group was to move that relationship into the background and place peer relationships in the foreground. In order to accomplish this, I originally thought it would be enough to describe the aims, goals, rules, etc. However, as described earlier, this did not work – and indeed, may have likely contributed to increased anxiety and ambiguity in the group. Looking back, I now wonder if it would have been more effective to use the authority present from initiating the group, being senior, etc to attempt and remove that authority. While I am not entirely certain of the form that this process would take what seems clear is the need to act, as an authority to communicate that there is no authority. In other words, by actively placing my trust in the group (only something the supervisor/authority can do) I would have more fully taken the role of facilitator.

Of course, this is easier said then done, particularly in a peer setting. Indeed, early in the group, the question of authority was raised and despite my wish to move away from these traditional group issues, by spreading authority around I found myself more often then not responding from a place as the supervisor. While this involved using authority it was in the form of maintaining a more conventional relationship. Instead, I wonder what it would have been like to use my authority to let it go. By constraining the extent to which I would reply (perhaps less as supervisor and more as a peer?) would that have facilitated a more effective peer group experience?

I believe that my difficulties doing this, reflects some of my own ambivalence to authority and hesitancy to fully embrace a facilitator role. Indeed, much like supervisee’s look to quell their anxiety through the supervisor, I was doing the same. Retreating into roles makes managing anxiety easier but also limits some of the opportunities for novel experiencing. In this respect, my movement between facilitator and supervisor limited the extent to which I committed to either and thus the extent to which a genuine peer interaction could develop.

For me, anxiety around authority stems from the possibility of overly constraining self and other. Accordingly, my response is to make space by either reluctantly (or inconsistently) accepting authority or alternatively challenging it. Although at times effective and important it can also be confusing and prevent roles and novelty from becoming fully developed. Instead I find it necessary to remind myself that authority much like other roles can be taken up, released, and modified, and that constraint enables action, which of course modifies constraint. Being more flexible at doing so may allow for more productive peer supervision groups!

Shock and Allegory in Balabanov’s Cargo 200

The problem with Cargo 200, in a sentence: it wants to maintain the shocking locus of the film as both a thematically coherent linchpin of events, characters, narrative strands, etc. and as a decidedly “meaningless,” shocking violence that cannot be articulated, grasped, or accounted for “finally” by the film in which it appears.

Accordingly, the literature that attempts to negotiate or justify this rhetoric of shock – that is, where the shock must both “exceed” and “express” meaning – finds itself in a tight spot. Gregory Carleton’s article in Studies in Soviet and Russian Cinema, “A tale of two wars: sex and death in Ninth Company and Cargo 200,” seems to me representative in this regard (and there don’t seem to be all that many English language essays on Cargo 200). On the one hand, he writes, Cargo 200 is “groundbreaking precisely because of the visual explicitness of sexual scenes”: which is to say, it is the “explicitness” and “excessiveness” itself that becomes meaningful through its negative, transgressive gesture. This is also to say that the “content” is both relatively unstylized and of secondary importance. What matters most is the raw, visceral shock of the scenes: for this reason, “the graphic scene is essential, especially as it plays on audience expectations.”

It is thus first and foremost a matter of “affect” and moving the spectator, of which “shock,” in this view, occupies a privileged relation, as the first affect amongst affects. (Much could be said of the literalist, direct, and unmediated character attributed to “shock,” and how this “ground for the real” itself piggybacks off conceptions of the body as “corporeal” and “material” – or in any case, self-identical.) The proximity of discourses of shock to discourses of physiology should in this respect be questioned. I mean, are “quieter” responses the less affective for it, or for that matter the less shocking? Can love shock? Can laughter? If shock is nothing more than the “touching” of the subject, as told through a discourse of physiology, then it becomes difficult to assign a magnitude or threshold past which a given affect breaks free of the pantheon of responses to become a more direct, visceral elicitation. It seems to me that everything said of shock could just as well be said of jokes and laughter.

That being said, this logic of shock is in actuality only strategically (and rather disingenuously) dispensed, if only for the reason that, paradoxically, it is the shock itself that is supposed to express, or bear the weight of, determinate, historical themes. Which is to say, shock cannot remain an exclusively affective phenomenon if it is to find historical or cultural justification. To become allegorical, it must move beyond this simple, reductive “explicitness.” So after describing the rape scenes as “groundbreaking” for their “visual explicitness,” Carleton turns to their “symbolic conceit,” though it’s never said how the one is able to suddenly, if selectively, coextend with the other. The “explicit” is after all directly opposed to the “symbolic” and the “allegorical”; where the former claims to require nothing of the viewer, of culture – it circumvents the interpretive process, which is why it’s presented as “affective,” i.e. direct, unmediated, ‘of the body, not the mind’ – the latter suggests a specific critical or allegorical motivation at work in its presentation.

Though the affective, unmediated character attributed to shock is able to secure for itself a “ground” for inquiry, it also, for the same reason, cuts itself off from history, politics, culture. How can the explicit, the unmediated, the direct, be made to link up with the broader, and certainly “mediated,” problems that surround it? Carleton seems to be struggling with this problem when he writes:

“Moreover, visualized sexuality in each [Ninth Company and Cargo 200] is not a coincidental occurrence but connects the films in an intertextual relationship and broader meta-narrative. It draws from and informs the legacy of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, in particular how the war’s figuration has been shaped by glasnost/early post-Soviet representations. Central to this meta-narrative is rape, as a symbolic conceit of the anti-epic and its themes of violation and betrayal.”

In a way, Carleton here simply repeats the question. Even his language for describing the relationship between the rape scenes and the historical forces represented in the film carefully maintains their distinction (“connects,” “draws from,” “informs,” etc.), no doubt because the relationship between them is tenuous, unmotivated, and difficult to locate. In which case, it becomes difficult to describe the shockingly violent center of the film as an allegory for anything, if only because it is what it was meant to be: arbitrary, gratuitous, and non-symbolic.

Carleton’s attempt to find a “symbolic conceit” in the rape scenes, after having presented them as “explicit” and ahistorical in their “affect,” seems to me symptomatic of the methodological problems within the film itself. But even if we were to give generous readings of Carleton and Cargo 200, the allegorical reading suggested would be just as problematic. I mean, if, as Carleton argues, “Central to this meta-narrative is rape, as a symbolic conceit of the anti-epic and its themes of violation and betrayal,” then it would be like comparing the relationship between the Soviet people and its government to the rape of an adolescent girl. So, even if we did grant this film the allegorical status it seems to desire, we would be confronted with still more problematic metaphors and analogies, none of which seem particularly insightful or sophisticated.

After all, the film is titled Cargo 200, which suggests that the true concern of this film is the death of soldiers in a needless, foreign war; in which case the rape of Angelika would stand in for the “rape” of Soviet men by the Soviet state? That the corpse of Angelika’s fiance is rolled into bed with her suggests as much, symbolically-speaking, but why these two acts – rape and war – should be drawn as homologous is left unexplained, assumed. (That both are horrible seems to me the thinnest of possible relations. By this logic, any horrible act could serve this narrative just as well.) In any event, the rape of Angelika would in this sense appear as a rather curious, and it would seem inappropriate, symbol for what “cargo 200″ represents: the murder of young men by the state. That said, we are never really told why this young woman’s body has been made the site for the suffering of innumerable symbolic violences, why this body should be made to bear the problems and violences of the nation in its entirety – from religion to politics to the military to pop culture. However, as soon as the question becomes too irritating to turn away, the film is of course able to fall back on the “shock” alibi, according to which the film’s own inability to explain itself is supposed to be the explanation.

Eli or Thorkelson on the gender of the academic name

Eli Thorkelson, of decasia fame, makes some compelling observations about “the gender of the academic name“:

Anyway, my friend said she’d noticed that, when academics talk about other academics, they are likely to use the first and last name when referring to a woman academic, while men academics often get mentioned by last name only. This to her was entirely part of everyday life, undesirable but obvious.

But I was taken somewhat aback by this claim, and I think the other guy there was too. I realized afterwards, to my shame, that our common reaction was one of doubt. We wanted to think of counterexamples. Exceptions that would disprove the rule. Isn’t Judith Butler pretty reliably called Judith Butler? we were asked. But isn’t Butler a pretty common name? Well, but there aren’t any other famous academics called Butler, now are there? Or take Simone de Beauvoir. Pretty much always Simone de Beauvoir, isn’t she? Well, yes. Who could deny that? While on the other hand Sartre, it came to my mind, is indeed pretty much always just Sartre. Or take Hannah Arendt. Is Hannah Arendt always Hannah Arendt? Well, yes, pretty often, though I think maybe at the philosophy department in Paris-8 she may occasionally become just Arendt. But other mid-century German male philosophers seem to go by their last names far more often. Marcuse is just Marcuse. And “Adorno” also seems to travel pretty well by itself, as a practically self-contained sign of pessimistic dialectical prose convolution. Or take Eve Sedgwick. She’s pretty often called Eve Sedgwick, no? But not really Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, that’s a mouthful. We didn’t reach agreement about that.

Nina Beier’s Possibly In Progress “Non Finito”

Nina Beier, Non Finito Series, Wood, metal, 20 x 20 cm, 2009

Though interesting enough on their own, these two works by the Berlin-based Danish artist Nina Beier form something entirely new when taken together. In the first (and the order is important), a “horizontal skyscraper” is displayed in (possibly) unfinished form. We say “possibly” because, according to its placard, this “sculpture in process is exhibited or sold on the agreement that the artist might or might not choose to continue working on it.” Though this gesture may seem tired, practiced, potentially disingenuous, it nonetheless strikes a key that reverberates across the “life” of an artwork. For one, the work itself may or may not be finished; which is to say, one may or may not know what one is exhibiting or buying; which is also to say, one may expect more and receive something “less,” the artwork as it already is. It could even be said to undermine the concept of a work of art in the most direct way possible, through the threat that it may only be a rough draft, a scribble. That it depends upon an “agreement” with the exhibitor or owner may even promise to raise legal issues, should the artist choose to exploit that contract in a way that would startle, and no doubt enrage, any party naive enough to not take it seriously. The possibilities, needless to say, are endless – literally.

Nina Beier, Framing Horizontal Skyscraper Non Finito, framed photograph, 2009

The work does not “end” there, however. A separate work, “Framing Horizontal Skyscraper Non Finito,” is nothing more than a “framed studio shot of an artwork. When documented during each exhibition, a print of this new photograph replaces the previous one in the frame.” Again, this gesture could easily be mistaken for a tired, pseudo-Modernist reprieve, or for yet another bout of feigned institutional self-reflexivity, if not for the fact that the original work is itself (possibly) “in progress.” Thus a “system” of sorts manages to emerge from this careful delineation. With the modification of the one, comes the modification of the other, and in such a way that it need not end there. “Agreements” could be exploited to complicate still other agreements. Of course, Beier’s formula (and it is at this point that it becomes a formula) could rather easily be be made to grow tiresome, or in any case tedious. But that’s just it: through this clever variation on the artwork that awaits “completion,” this work demands that further steps be taken elsewhere, according to protocol that begin to resemble bureaucratic measures, or at least needless stipulations. It makes a mockery of what it at first seems to be: yet another work that depends upon the viewer’s “realization.”

Speculative Realism and Animal Studies Discussion

The Inhumanities and Speculative Heresy are hosting a cross-blog event on the topic of critical animal studies from the perspective of speculative realism. The first post up – on Levinas, the Other, and animals – has set the stage for what promises to be a lively, rich discussion, centered around the following question:

While speculative realism has critiqued anthropocentrism in ontology, and critical animal studies has critiqued anthropocentrism in ethics, there has yet to be many productive connections made between the two. With each offering the other important insights, the question to be asked is, what is the relation between ethics and ontology? Does a realist ontology require the suspension of any ethical imperatives? Can ethics and norms be grounded in something real? Are nonhuman actors capable of ethical relations?

The submission/participation guidelines:

Besides the participants of the two blogs and anyone we are able to recruit to respond, we are also opening up the field for answers to anyone. All answers must be 1500-2000 words, and submissions for answers must be recieved by Friday, November 13th. Inquiries can be sent to [email protected] or to the email addresses of Scu, Greg, Craig, Ben, and Nick. I hope you are all looking forward to this event as much as we are!

I for one plan to throw my hat in the ring – on the subject of “instinct”, its epistemological history, and the way it shapes dominant scientific and philosophical conceptions of the animal.

Frankly, it’s about time critical animal studies regained some momentum and sparked some genuine interest in contemporary schools of thought. The major post-structuralist thinkers, Derrida excepting, were not too kind to this question, and the embarrassing hole they left for us desperately needs to be filled.

Pirated Theory Sites

Via Mariborcan, see Open Reflections‘ round-up of (and commentary on) the major text, philosophy, and theory sharing sites, which are:

However, as counterpoint to Janneke Adema’s echoing of John Perry Barlow‘s well-known declaration that “information wants to be free“, it should be reminded that information does not just want to be free. As Goldsmith and Wu put it in Who Controls the Internet?:

“The Internet has been celebrated for allowing open, universal communication. ‘Information wants to be free,’ John Perry Barlow famously declared. But information does not, in fact, want to be free. It wants to be labeled, organized, and filtered so it can be discovered, cross-referenced, and consumed.” (Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu. Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006: 51)

With so many texts now available online, in searchable pdf format, wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could be searched, cross-referenced, tagged, etc. beforedownloading? The kind of possibilities – conceptual, and research-wise – this would open up for scholarship is mind-boggling if taken to its conclusion.