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Intelligence and Spirit

Reza Negarestani

Top 10 Best Quotes

“Intelligence without risk is an empty thought, as is an intelligence whose realization takes no time. Risk and time are the presuppositions for the history of intelligence in which nothing is given in advance and nothing is completed as the totality of that history.”

“To be human is the only way out of being human. An alternative exit— either by unbinding sentience from sapience or by circumventing sapience in favour of a direct engagement with the technological artefact—cannot go beyond the human. Rather it leads to a culture of cognitive pettiness and self-deception that is daily fodder for the most parochial and utilitarian political systems that exist on the planet. In delivering sentience from its so-called sapient yoke, one does not become posthuman, or even animal, but falls back on an ideologically charged ‘biological chauvinism’ that sapience ought to overcome, for it is the very idea of humanist conservatism that misrepresents what is accidental and locally contingent as what is necessary and universal. In discarding the human in the hope of an immediate contact with superintelligence or a self-realization of the technological artefact, one either surreptitiously subjects the future to the predetermined goals of conservative humanism, or subscribes to a future that is simply the teleological actualization of final causes and thus a resurrection of the well-worn Aristotelian fusion of reasons and causes. Human sapience is the only project of exit.”

“Artificiality is the reality of the mind. Mind has never been and will never have a given nature. It becomes mind by positing itself as the artefact of its own concept. By realizing itself as the artefact of its own concept, it becomes able to transform itself according to its own necessary concept by first identifying, and then replacing or modifying, its conditions of realization, disabling and enabling constraints. Mind is the craft of applying itself to itself. The history of the mind is therefore quite starkly the history of artificialization. Anyone and anything caught up in this history is predisposed to thoroughgoing reconstitution. Every ineffable will be theoretically disenchanted and every scared will be practically desanctified.”

“It is one thing to explain the causal origins of thinking, as science commendably does; it is an entirely different thing to conflate thinking in its formal or rule-governed dimension with its evolutionary genesis. Being conditioned is not the same as being constituted. Such a conflation not only sophistically elides the distinction between the substantive and the formal, it also falls victim to a dogmatic metaphysics that is impulsively blind to its own epistemological and methodological bases qua origins. It is this genetic fallacy that sanctions the demotion of general intelligence as qualitatively distinct to a mere quantitative account of intelligent behaviours prevalent in nature. It should not come as a any surprise that this is exactly the jaded gesture of antihumanism upon whose shoddy pillars today's discourse of posthumanism supports its case. Talk of thinking forests, rocks, worn shoes, and ethereal beings goes hand in hand with the cult of technological singularity, musings on Skynet or the Market as speculative posthuman intelligence, and computers endowed with intellectual intuition. And again, by now it should have become obvious that, despite the seeming antagonism between these two camps - one promoting the so-called egalitarianism of going beyond human conditions by dispensing with the rational resources of critique, the other advancing the speculative aspects of posthuman supremacy on the grounds of the technological overcoming of the human condition - they both in fact belong to the arsenal of today's neoliberal capitalism in its full-on assault on any account of intelligence that may remotely insinuate an ambition for collective rationality and imagination.”

“What makes Hegel's picture of geist a significant contribution not only to the history of functionalism and philosophy of mind but also, intriguingly, to the history of artificial general intelligence, is that it presents a social model of general intelligence, one in which sociality is a formal condition for the realization of cognitive abilities that would be unrealizable by individual agents alone.”

“We as manifest humans must come to terms -psychologically, cognitively, and ethically - with the hard fact of what it means to be human: One cannot have the cake of humanity without eating its consequences. Once we treat ourselves as a species of rights and entitlements, once we say what ought or ought not to be thought or done, the moment we distinguish the order of things and respons to it in accordance with what we think is right, however far from the truth it may be, we have committed ourselves to the impersonal order of reason to which sapiens belongs - an order that will expunge our manifest self-portrait. We have crossed the cognitive Rubicon. In committing to this impersonal order we must realize that what is manifestly human - us as we stand here, now - will be overcome by that very order. Reason is a game in which we are all fleeting players and from which we cannot defect, so let us play this game well by committing to its interests and its ramifications.”

“This is not to say that we ought to forego all metaphysical claims - in this case, the metaphysical account of time. The point is not to be quietist when it comes to metaphysics. For it is precisely once we presume that we have purged ourselves of metaphysical assumptions, that we become susceptible to the most dogmatic and veiled forms of metaphysics. The fanatic Kantian critical crusade against metaphysics only leads to an illusory disillusionment as one ends up with a stock of unexamined and unacknowledged metaphysical assumptions. In contrast to this approach, in the vein of Plato and Hegel, the aim is to be concretely self-conscious with respect to metaphysics and indeed strive to develop a robust metaphysics - in this case, a robust metaphysics of time.”

“The true revolutionary import of science lies in its capacity to amplify reason's own power of knowing and to instigate cognitive expansion. The convergent progressivist interpretation of scientific theories is often assumed to be a preventive measure against irrationality and relativism with regards to scientific theories; but in reality it is an oversimplification that causes more unnecessary problems which can become the source of irrationality. The rationality of science lies not in the uniform progression of science, but in how these theories are constructed and how they expand the capacities of reason and its cognitive traction on the world. In light of the dynamics of scientific structuration or theoreticity, the rationality of science can be preserved without a convergent progressivist reading of scientific change. Similarly, epistemological anarchism can be shown to be merely a parasitic outcome of the pseudo-rationality of an uncritically progressivist view of science.”

“Or think of Goodman's own example: the shift from the analogue to the digital should be regarded as a veritable worldmaking. In this process, continuities are deleted. We are now in the domain of pure mechanizability: discrete inputs, discrete states, and discrete outputs. This shift realized by deletion is a radical one. The very distinction between human and machine collapses. The human world will be revealed as nothing but a special qualitative kind of integration of computational algorithms. As an alternative to this digital world, we can imagine a computational world where continuity, and above all the realtime interaction between the system or the abstract machine and its environment, is restored (supplemented). This is a new computational world in which the system and the environment interact without any pre-given limitations. The interaction is computation itself in a truly concurrent sense, to use the idiom of today's theoretical computer science. The prospects of such a paradigm of computation for remodelling the very notion of spirit or geist as a multi-agent system (interacting computational processes) is beyond our acquired practical reason, if not truly theoretically and practically unbound.”

“It is therefore necessary to grasp the concept of artificial general intelligence not merely as a technoscientific idea, but more fundamentally as a concept belonging to a thought or form of intelligence that treats its very possibility as an explicit opportunity to pierce through the horizon of its givenness: it does not matter what it currently is; what matters is what can be done - all relevant things considered - to expand and build on this possibility.”

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Book Keywords:

artificiality, geist, worldmaking, co-immunism, analogue, digital, time, mind, metaphysics, spirit, science, intelligence, hegel, imagination, human, progress, humanity, multi-agent-modelling, coimmunity, general-intelligence, rationality, general-artificial-intelligence, artificialization, shift

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