CyberAnthropology: a new paradigm

Tue, 8 Feb 1994 22:12:40 -0500

This board needs something stimulating for all its frustrated lurking
members. Perhaps what it requires is a manifesto! Hence I present:
CyberAnthropology: a new paradigm

1. CyberAnthropology is not Donna Harraway's cyborg anthropology. It is not
your father's oldsmobile either.

2. Previous philosophers held humankind to be a machine (LaMettrie.)
However, their idea of a machine was some steam-driven, gear-chewing,
iron-clanking engine. Today, CyberAnthropologists know humankind to be a
digital-analog, input-output, "wetware" based electronic transceiver.
Humans are already cyborgs because they are organic machines. They are
equipped with input devices (sensory organs), output devices (the vocal
apparatus), and other peripherals (hands and feet) for movement and

3. Humankind's physical activity transforms matter into energy or moves
matter from one place to another. This is called work. Humankind can now
employ other machines for this process. Humankind's mental activity
transforms energy (light, etc.) into information. This is called knowledge
production. Both processes inevitably increase entropy - in closed systems.
Robots and computers may outperform human machines in both areas someday -

4. The human mechanism is equipped with a 3 lb. processor called the Brain.
This processor acquires and transmits programs (memes) to other processors.
The study of this process is called memetics, because one can analyze this
process from the viewpoint of the meme as a selfish entity exploiting the
coding of the mechanism, just as a virus exploits an organism's DNA.
The process of acquiring a system environment (DOS/Western civilization)
and a communications protocol (Zterm/English) usually occurs in childhood
and is referred to as "enculturation." Human machines are programmed with
various memes through memetic-transmission systems - doctrines, paradigms,
etc. - and this we call "education."

5. Humankind is constantly utilizing other machines to transform itself.
Originally, mechanisms on the outside of the body were used for
modification ("body building," "piercing," etc.) Other machines are moving
toward becoming more humanlike (androids), whereas humans are becoming more
mechanized through the use of implants, artificial organs and limbs, and
technological rationalization of the body. Symbiosis between artificial and
organic life cannot be too far away.

6. Certain people who study human machines suggest one of their unique
capacities is symbolization. Nonetheless, Artificial Intelligences (AIs)
who also have this capability are not studied. CyberAnthropologists think
that it will not be too long before AIs pass the Turing Test, and then must
be the subjects of ethnographic examination as well.

7. The important thing about the human machine is that the instruction
manual has been lost. For that reason, no one is fully certain what it is
equipped to do. Some people suggest it is incapable of receiving data
transmitted through a nonsensory modality. The machine uses only about
10-20% of processor capacity. Therefore, to limit it capacities based on
its current operating level is to deny the possibility that hardware
(genetic) and software (memetic) modifications might result in heretofore
unforeseen improvements in performance.

Any comments, flames, et al...?

Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
Anthropologist, Cybernaut, PoMoDemite, Noetician, Situationiste, et al.
University of Florida, Gainesville, Cosmic Nexus of the Universal Matrix
"'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds!" --Malaclypse the Younger