AI & SOCIETY

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 1–16

Computers, postmodernism and the culture of the artificial

  • Colin Beardon
Article

Abstract

The term ‘the artificial’ can only be given a precise meaning in the context of the evolution of computational technology and this in turn can only be fully understood within a cultural setting that includes an epistemological perspective. The argument is illustrated in two case studies from the history of computational machinery: the first calculating machines and the first programmable computers. In the early years of electronic computers, the dominant form of computing was data processing which was a reflection of the dominant philosophy of logical positivism. By contrast, artificial intelligence (AI) adopted an anti-positivist position which left it marginalised until the 1980s when two camps emerged: technical AI which reverted to positivism, and strong AI which reified intelligence. Strong AI's commitment to the computer as a symbol processing machine and its use of models links it to late-modernism. The more directly experiential Virtual Reality (VR) more closely reflects the contemporary cultural climate of postmodernism. It is VR, rather than AI, that is more likely to form the basis of a culture of the artificial.

Keywords

History of computing Data processing Artificial intelligence Virtual reality Modernism Postmodernism 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Arnold, R.R., Hill, H.C. & Nichols, A.V. (1978)Modern Data Processing. 3rd edition. John Wiley, Santa Barbara.Google Scholar
  2. Baudrillard, J. (1983)Simulations. Semiotext(e), New York.Google Scholar
  3. Beardon, C. (1988) Explanations in Cognitive Science.Artificial Intelligence Review, 2, 2, pp. 181–193.Google Scholar
  4. Berleur, J. (1993) Risk and vulnerability in an information and artificial society. In: J. Berleur, C. Beardon & R. Laufer (eds.)Facing the challenge of risk and vulnerability in an information society. Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. (North-Holland), Amsterdam, pp. 3–23.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, M. & Slater, M (1991) A review of interaction technologies as applied to virtual reality. Proc.Computer Graphics 1991. London, pp 309–327.Google Scholar
  6. Davis, G.B. (1969)Computer Data Processing. McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Eisner, R. (1991) Researchers see a wealth of applications for Virtual Reality.The Scientist, 18 Mar 1991, pp. 14–16.Google Scholar
  8. Fleck, J. (1982) Development and establishment in artificial intelligence. In: N. Elias, H. Martins & R. Whitley (eds)Scientific establishments and hierarchies. Sociology of the sciences, Volume VI. D. Riedel Publishing Company. pp 169–217.Google Scholar
  9. Frates, J. & Moldrup, W. (1983)Computers and Life: an integrative approach. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.Google Scholar
  10. Gore, M.R. & Stubbe, J.W. (1979)Computers and Data Processing. McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  11. Habermas, J. (1985) Modernity — an incomplete project. In: H. Foster (ed)Postmodern culture. Pluto Press, London, pp 3–15.Google Scholar
  12. Halliday, M. (1988) On the language of physical science. In: M. Linadessy (ed)Registers of written English: statistical factors and linguistic features. Pinter, London.Google Scholar
  13. Hamming, R.W. (1980) We would know what they thought when they did it. In N. Metropolis, J. Howlett & G-C. Rota (eds)A history of computing in the Twentieth Century. Academic Press, New York, PP 3–9.Google Scholar
  14. Harman, M. (1975)Stretching man's mind: a history of data processing. Mason/Charter, USA.Google Scholar
  15. Hassan, I. (1984) The culture of postmodernism.Theory, Culture and Society, 2, 3, pp. 119–31.Google Scholar
  16. Hayes, P. (1984) On the differences between psychology and AI. In: M. Yazdani & A. Narayana (eds)Artificial Intelligence: Human effects. Ellis Horwood, Chichester, p. 157–162.Google Scholar
  17. Heims, S. (1980)John von Neuman and Norbet Weiner: from mathematics to the technologies of life and death. MIT Press, Camb., Mass.Google Scholar
  18. Kay, A. (1990) User Interface: a Personal View. In B. Laurel (ed.)The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design. Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass. pp. 191–207.Google Scholar
  19. Kolakowski, L. (1972)Positivist philosophy: from Hume to the Vienna Circle. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middx.Google Scholar
  20. Laufer, R. (1991) The history of computers: an epistemological point of view. In: J. Berluer, A. Clements, R. Sizer & D. Whitehouse (eds)The Information Society: evolving landscapes Captus/Springer Verlag, Toronto/ New York.Google Scholar
  21. Laurel, B. (1990)The Computer as Theatre. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  22. Lavington, S. (1980)Early British Computers. Manchester University Press, Manchester.Google Scholar
  23. Lyotard, J-L. (1984)The Postmodern condition. Manchester University Press, Manchester.Google Scholar
  24. Merquior, J.G. (1989) Spider and Bee: towards a critique of the postmodern ideology. In: L. Appignanesi (ed.)Postmodernism: 1CA documents. Free Association Book, London.Google Scholar
  25. Minsky, M. (1968)Semantic Information Processing. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  26. Narayanan, A. (1986) Why AI cannot be wrong. In: K. Gill (ed)Artificial Intelligence for Society. Wiley, Chichester.Google Scholar
  27. Negrotti, M. (1991)Understanding the artificial: on the future shape of artificial intelligence. Springer-Verlag, London.Google Scholar
  28. Nelson, T.H. (1990) The Right Way To Think About Software Design. In B. Laurel (ed.)The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design. Addison Wesley, Reading, Mass. pp. 235–243.Google Scholar
  29. Nikolaieff, G. (1970)Computers and Society. H.W. Wilson, London.Google Scholar
  30. Rheingold, H. (1992)Virtual Reality. Mandarin, London.Google Scholar
  31. Ryle, G. (1970)The concept of mind. Hutchinson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  32. Sherman, B. (1992) Birth of a brave new world.Times Ed Suppl., Mar 92 Update pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  33. Toulmin, S. (1991) The dream of an exact language. In B. Göranzon and M. Florin (eds.)Dialogue and technology: art and knowledge. Springer-Verlag, London.Google Scholar
  34. Turing, A. (1950) Computing Machinery and Intelligence.Mind, LIX, 236.Google Scholar
  35. Verzello, R.J. & Reutter III, J. (1982)Data Processing: Systems and concepts. McGraw-Hill, London.Google Scholar
  36. Walker, J. (1973)Glossary of Art, Architecture and Design since 1945. Clive Bingley, London.Google Scholar
  37. Weizenbaum, J. (1976)Computer power and human reason: from judgment to calculation. W.H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  38. Williams, M. (1976) The Difference Engine.Computer Journal, 19, 1, pp. 82–89.Google Scholar
  39. Williams, R. (1989) When was modernism? In Williams R,The politics of modernism. Verso, London.Google Scholar
  40. Wittgenstein, L. (1961)Tractatus logico-philosophicus, trans. D.F. Pears & B.F. McGuiness. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.Google Scholar
  41. Wittrock, B. (1993) Polity, Economy and Knowledge in the Age of Modernity in Europe.AI & Society, 7, 2, pp. 127–40.Google Scholar
  42. Woolley, B. (1992)Virtual worlds. Penguin Books, London.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin Beardon
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Art, Design and HumanitiesUniversity of BrightonBrightonUK

Personalised recommendations