Re: Hyperreality

Danny Yee (danny@ORTHANC.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Thu, 9 Dec 1993 16:57:37 +1100

> From: seeker1@MAPLE.CIRCA.UFL.EDU
> Subject: Hyperreality

Dear possible AI program,

It doesn't really matter to me whether you are an AI program, an
alien from Mars, a group of ten year old schoolgirls or a 50 year old !Kung
hunter. The only way I can interact with you is through the medium of the
texts you produce and the language you use, and at the moment that's the only
way I'm *interested* in interacting with you. (Our combined interaction
with those reading this debate is another question entirely.)

> Hyperreality is a different animal.
> The "new technologies of representation," and this list is certainly one,
> create a unique problem - the separation of the real and the irreal, and
> image from reality.

I'm still unclear what exactly you are saying. Noone, ever, has had
unmediated access to the "real". This has been a commonplace in the
philosophy of science for quite a while now, and it hasn't caused the
universe to disappear. Anthropologists have been dealing with problems
in representation throughout the history of the discipline, and I see no
way in which "new technologies of representation" alters those problems
in any fundamental way.

[ I do agree that new forms of communication, and the communities they
create, are an extraordinarily interesting subject for anthropological
study. I also think it possible that they may have fundamental and
far-reaching social consequences. I just don't think they have any
consequences for basic epistemology. ]

> Do you know whether or not I'm an AI? Can you know? Did I really send you
> this message or did I have an automailer compose a response? How do you know
> I'm not really Dan Foss writing under another name? Maybe Seeker1 is
> actually a conglomeration of several individuals.
> I won't answer, for now, whether any of the above facts are true. But
> your response is probably based on the premise that you are responding to
> another person on the other "end" of this mailing list.

See above.

> I am not surprised that anthropologists don't seem to give a crap for
> epistemology. At least the physicists seem to care a minute bit about it
> more than us.This is what hyperreality is all about. If you don't get it,
> you don't get it.

Try telling your average physicist that "new technologies of representation"
are going to produce fundamental changes in the epistemological foundations
of physics and you will get a *much* less sympathetic response than you
have from anthropologists. As far as I know the hard sciences have ridden
the postmodern storm (in a teacup) untouched.

[ I know somewhat whereof I speak here. My undergraduate degree was in
physics and pure mathematics. ]

Danny Yee (