Comments:


klaitner     Mon, May 30, 2011  Permanent link
I find the idea that plastic identity is a stepping stone to virtual minds very much worth exploring. I am of the opinion that the singularity (the version where we upload our brains) is not likely to be successful, as minds without an embodiment constraint to force them to stay integrated would disintegrate - a post singularity insanity, if you will. If we are to survive the transition it will require that we gain skills in managing multiple sub and supra-identities. We must become comfortable being a somewhat redundant aggregation and randomization function.

When considering platform design for identity systems or systems which depend on identity, it is advisable to think carefully about the emergent properties of the structures underpinning the system. In this regard I completely agree that the designs should specifically avoid rigid designators wherever they are unnecessary. I don't agree that banking is a good example of appropriate use of rigid designators, though the dating site example is valid re gender (though gender on a spectrum, a slider if you will rather than a checkbox). Banking requires a stable, verifiable identity, not a bio person linked one. It is rather governments that require bio person identities for the purposes of taxation and control. It is also my shared concern with yours that identity cards for the internet are extraordinary inappropriate for the medium, and that increasingly the old institutions will criminalize new behaviors until a revolution ushers in the new age (see debates around bitcoin, internet anonymity).

Rigid designators should not be allowed to imply ontology and / or metaphysics. .. reflect the necessity of accurate empirical representation


This is a nice thought, but I am unsure of the ability to enforce, except through moral suasion. I expect human beings in general are not capable of using designators purely empirically. This is why, including in your project, it is often necessary to use esoteric language to be very specific about meaning, avoiding common vernacular is it is overloaded. This naturally makes the exercise more exclusive and less capable of viral spread. The ties between language and thought (causal or not) imply word coinage may be necessary to combine the virtues of simplicity and non-traceability.

There's a degree of transference of historical notions into a domain of existential realism to which those notions are not adapted and are factually obsolete


This is the theme of any new conceptual context, that the old metaphors are recreated in the new medium, until such time as the new medium finds its own 'true' expression. Witness documents and folders on computers. The key is to introduce the new metaphors in a way that can catch on, such that we do not become limited in an essentially free medium to the constraints that exist only in our collective conciousness.

In fact, on first appearance it may seem that due to the motion from the actual to the virtual, much information is lost and thus our capabilities of discernment and discrimination are the poorer for it.. this apparent paucity is in fact a false impression .. based on rigid identifiers


This is a beautifully made point. Again it is based on trying to represent old metaphors in the new medium. Having paper on your computer screen and wondering why you cannot tear it or dog ear the corners, missing entirely the new affordances of the medium.

.. certain identities in virtuality are not extensions of our physicality but have, as it were, an independent or semi-independent existence ..


it's highly likely that given enough time and diversification, including mutations, alterations and transformations no [mapping of avatar to originator] will be possible or desirable.. the relationship between the avatar and its originator is an indeterminate one that inherently exhibits the characteristics of ambiguity and fuzziness.


I wonder whether you are making the obvious point of intelligent agents being extensions of their creators but existing in a context unknown or even unknowable by their creators, and the responsibility tracing back to the originator (say a virus and its author), or a rather broader implication that even simple representation in the virtual space has an element of indeterminacy about it - that the context and interactions the avatar has with its surroundings make it something other than an extension of self - I also wonder about the responsibility attached to the butterfly that flaps its wings for the hurricane half way around the world, not all emergence is unknowable - please comment

I do very much like the use of originator rather than owner as it reflects the fluid interests in a particular avatar or representation that become more distributed with time and interaction. This is another design feature of interest for a social platform.

.. we can no longer assume that the motion of intelligence is still, in all cases, directed from the actual to the virtual.. it is an interplay of flows, symmetry is not implied .. asymmetry reigns supreme ..


This is a fascinating theme and intuitively satisfying. What is the intelligence you are referring to here? The projection of identity? Directed causation? how does this definition

There are many ways to understand intelligence, and in many contexts, issues of problem solving, capacity of reasoning, adaptability to new environments, learning from experience, pattern recognition, judgment exercising, imagination, originality, artistic and abstract perception, complex interpretation and so on, are all possible interpretations, definitions and usages of the concept


map to your flows?

.. our cyborgization processes of becoming .. is fundamentally ambiguous .. and should be considered as a flow of in-betweens .. domains of interests, passions and relations.. a fundamental structural instability .. [an] inherent approximation


A lovely softening of the hard lines of object centric sociality, a gestalt figure and background swapping from traditional social networking models.

I propose to make this particular ambiguity [the Avatar-Originator relationship] a kind of benchmark reflection on the concept of identity. I want to see a radical motion towards a possible liberating procedures in which our concious usage of the ambiguity of this relationship replaces the closely coupled, rigid designations we still transpose from the actual to the virtual


So you think facebook sucks a priori :) I would agree this would be a fascinating design for a social network. Certainly it can merely be a usage, but as a meta layer of semantics, much more powerful / dangerous .. do you dare to eat a peach?

The indeterminacy of our identities in the hyperconnected infocologies we are presently enmeshed in, is, I believe, only an indication or the beginning, if you like, of a much greater fuzziness that is waiting for us in the process of cyborgization, to which the virtualization of identity is a crucial step.


This is a key point, that our acceptance of greater degrees of ambiguity through the virtualization of identity is the training ground for cyborgization / mind upload is compelling.

It is my view that the evolution of intelligence, is currently undergoing a dramatic shift towards a greater uncertainty and openness, a deeper ambiguity and larger indeterminacy, a new state of affairs of mind, through which we may, if sensibly and wisely managed, become more free.


Indeterminacy and ambiguity leads not only to greater freedom but to more natural action. Perhaps this also implies a movement towards the now, disengagement from the past and future, a simple engagement with the present not cluttered by temporal norms of identity behavior (ie consistency, alignment).

There seems to be a theme of intelligence and identity being closely linked, I wonder if you could elaborate on the nature of this relationship. Moreover, once the imperative grouping function of the body is no longer a constraint, and for example minds are all uploaded (as an extreme example) whither this relationship? Are stable forms now more akin to attractors in a chaotic flow than the bio-stabilized identities we now employ?

Thank you as always for the stimulation.



























Wildcat     Thu, Jun 2, 2011  Permanent link
thank you Kurt, as always your comments bring a sharp eye to difficult subjects which demand of me an effort of clarification.

K:”I find the idea that plastic identity is a stepping-stone to virtual minds very much worth exploring. I am of the opinion that the singularity (the version where we upload our brains) is not likely to be successful, as minds without an embodiment constraint to force them to stay integrated would disintegrate - a post singularity insanity, if you will. If we are to survive the transition it will require that we gain skills in managing multiple sub and supra-identities. We must become comfortable being a somewhat redundant aggregation and randomization function.”

W: I really like this definition of yours:” somewhat redundant aggregation and randomization function” though I do believe that we will be able to create such a function I am not certain that the redundancy will be an inherent factor, as I see it we already contain such a skill, though admittedly in most cases we are quite unaware to the fact that we ‘narrate’ a fragmented sense thought state of mind into an ‘apparent whole’. I think that to a very large extent we are comfortable (at least in private ‘mind talk’) with containing a multiple, or a multitude to follow Whitman’s usage in ‘song of myself’. I definitely am with you on the peril of disintegration without embodiments, however it may be the case that the function you alluded to is the new kind of embodiment we are creating.

K: ” When considering platform design for identity systems or systems which depend on identity, it is advisable to think carefully about the emergent properties of the structures underpinning the system. In this regard I completely agree that the designs should specifically avoid rigid designators wherever they are unnecessary. I don't agree that banking is a good example of appropriate use of rigid designators, though the dating site example is valid re gender (though gender on a spectrum, a slider if you will rather than a checkbox). Banking requires a stable, verifiable identity, not a bio person linked one. It is rather governments that require bio person identities for the purposes of taxation and control. It is also my shared concern with yours that identity cards for the internet are extraordinary inappropriate for the medium, and that increasingly the old institutions will criminalize new behaviors until a revolution ushers in the new age (see debates around bitcoin, internet anonymity).”

W: rethinking the example I gave of banking I agree with you that the necessity is for the ‘stable, verifiable identity’ however I think that this will be much harder a nut to crack than it seems on face value. There are so many crucial factors that need be taken into consideration, unless of course the whole banking system changes radically. I am quite uncertain as concerns bitcoin and other future of money project, before a fundamental metamorphosis of our self described agency, as in ‘intentional agency’ has happened, which is partially what I am trying to advocate here.


K:"w:Rigid designators should not be allowed to imply ontology and / or metaphysics. .. reflect the necessity of accurate empirical representation


K:"This is a nice thought, but I am unsure of the ability to enforce, except through moral suasion. I expect human beings in general are not capable of using designators purely empirically. This is why, including in your project, it is often necessary to use esoteric language to be very specific about meaning, avoiding common vernacular is it is overloaded. This naturally makes the exercise more exclusive and less capable of viral spread. The ties between language and thought (causal or not) imply word coinage may be necessary to combine the virtues of simplicity and non-traceability.

W: yes I am quite aware to the difficulties involved in creating an adequate language that will encompass the needed plasticity, though it may be argued that the hyperconnected reality we are enmeshed in supplies a kind of linguistic ground to which at least part of the new generation of young adults are subject, and are factually subscribing to. (There’s some new research in this respect, especially by Danah Boyd at MS, I’ll try to find the relevant pdf). Nevertheless I believe that many minds are changing their usage of certain terms without even noticing, and though it may not seem so at present since we are still at a very early stage of the transit period of virtualization, the motion I think has already set in.


K: “ w:”There's a degree of transference of historical notions into a domain of existential realism to which those notions are not adapted and are factually obsolete”


K:”This is the theme of any new conceptual context, that the old metaphors are recreated in the new medium, until such time as the new medium finds its own 'true' expression. Witness documents and folders on computers. The key is to introduce the new metaphors in a way that can catch on, such that we do not become limited in an essentially free medium to the constraints that exist only in our collective consciousness.

W:” of course that is what I am trying to do here but any advice as pertains introducing new metaphors in a way that can catch on is more than welcome. Also in this respect I am not sure the constraints exist as such in our collective consciousness, maybe if we substitute ‘constraints exist’ with ‘ habits have been formed’

K:” w:”In fact, on first appearance it may seem that due to the motion from the actual to the virtual, much information is lost and thus our capabilities of discernment and discrimination are the poorer for it.. this apparent paucity is in fact a false impression .. based on rigid identifiers”


K:"This is a beautifully made point. Again it is based on trying to represent old metaphors in the new medium. Having paper on your computer screen and wondering why you cannot tear it or dog ear the corners, missing entirely the new affordances of the medium.



k:"w:.. certain identities in virtuality are not extensions of our physicality but have, as it were, an independent or semi-independent existence ..


it's highly likely that given enough time and diversification, including mutations, alterations and transformations no [mapping of avatar to originator] will be possible or desirable.. the relationship between the avatar and its originator is an indeterminate one that inherently exhibits the characteristics of ambiguity and fuzziness.


K:"I wonder whether you are making the obvious point of intelligent agents being extensions of their creators but existing in a context unknown or even unknowable by their creators, and the responsibility tracing back to the originator (say a virus and its author), or a rather broader implication that even simple representation in the virtual space has an element of indeterminacy about it - that the context and interactions the avatar has with its surroundings make it something other than an extension of self - I also wonder about the responsibility attached to the butterfly that flaps its wings for the hurricane half way around the world, not all emergence is unknowable - please comment

W: if these are the options I would rather side with the broader implication in which even simple representations in virtual space are fundamentally ambiguous, which is much more than to say they have an element of indeterminacy about them. As I see it the relation avatar-originator is a newly born realm of exploration that is truly only a prelude to the next step in the evolution of human civilization. To my eyes the revolution of mind extended via technologies of hyperconnectivity resides exactly in this domain of intersubjectivity (in the case I am trying to elaborate here the avatar has as much subjectivity as the originator, creating a new tension, or existence that I term an event. Actually it may not be untrue to posit that sooner or later the conscious aware state of mind will change location from being supervenient on the brain to being supervenient, not on the avatar, but to the tension field of avatar-originator. Eventually re-describing the whole of human experience via a new set of characteristics, which I am in the process of unfolding.
In a way the above is highly controversial and radical, but I think that as some of our sensory data is already mediated via electronic devices and augmented to a form that some call surreal, or hyperrealism, some of that which previously was called ‘a thing, or object’ is increasingly becoming ‘informatized’ (receiving a kind of new background or infocology previously lacking to our immediate observation). Given this new state of affairs I think that the whole issue of responsibility will need be re-evaluated, for in the case that I perceive a new basin of attraction (the tension avatar-originator may be seen as a strange attractor) will be considered as the new reflective point from which agency and intentionality arise.

(divided my answers into multiple for ease of reading..)
starwalker     Sun, Jun 5, 2011  Permanent link
Thank you for the wide and absorbing view, the implanted lines of thought are many and active. Pausing a moment on the mechanics at play in this open redefinition of identity.

One of the reflections the essay brings to my mind is correlated to the kind of bias commonly at play while extracting order from information, the bias that brings one to locate rigidity - or constant order - before fluidity – or flow of variation, not necessarily a hard-wired bias.

From a different standpoint, a recent lecture of Metzinger on the illusion of self, presents some experiments around the ability of a human to recognize something as part of her - as herself. In the specific example the subject is as if tricked through her perception to perceive a rubber hand as hers and thus react when witnessing the stimulation of it.
What in my eyes is striking in this instance, and which connects me with the above reflection blown open in the present essay, is that the operation of recognizing something as part of one-self is, compared to what one would expect to experience or describe, surprisingly flexible and quick enough to recall an almost fluid quality. I would say even that ‘the system’ seems as if it is pre-disposed, if rightly stimulated, to acquire/internalize/recognize different items, whether items of description, impressions or objects, as parts of itself.

writing ‘the system’ because in this context it is not relevant, nor currently possible, to clearly define what it is, but at the moment looking at a multidimensional complex network of connected nodes out of which the ‘sense' of existing, or, the ‘subjective' experience emerges, the sense that somewhere along the last centuries we learned to call ‘self’.
The impression is as if this sense of “self” is pre-disposed to expand and include relevant items that participate/filter or augment ‘self’ presence and expression. And one of the way we use the physical body is to discipline this expansion back to the contours of a specific identity and form (thus the need for the rigid designators) unless in very special circumstances or unique cases.

Within the paradigm of self, this tendency to expand and internalize is described both in language and attitude through ‘possession’ or ‘ownership’. Said otherwise the overall phenomena of ownership can be looked at as a smaller case of a naturally expanding sense of self, a ‘network’ constantly creating new connections, which acquires and owns indiscriminately ideas, objects and personas, creating between them an emotional communication for as long as they are connected.

Yet when correlating this surprising ability of subjects with the concept of possession we sharply back off and take our distance, and one can clearly understand why, in actuality it is very easy to see how this representation can make co-existence of more than one sense of self (two or more conscious agents) in a room either impossible, or futile (either a war of ownership or a virtual split of universes)

Yet what brought to light by the process of virtualization of identity brings a new and fundamental difference into view

W: Whilst embodied identities maintain a formal highly structural and therefore rigid set of indicators, defined primarily as body, gender etc., our virtual identities are factually indicated in a fluid manner and thus pertain to the flaccid designators category. The initial condition of the human thus has changed and can no longer be theorized based on immovable objects of identity. What the Polytopian stance suggests is that our virtual identities are in fact social entities in and of themselves allowing a co-present, inter-subjective, hyper-connected, state of affairs, radically rewriting the codes of social encounters.


Part of what am reading in it is that appreciating the change in paradigm brought about by the virtualization of identity, and thus allowing a gradual release of the aspect of ownership from a centralized self within the equation of who/what we are, situate the tendency of a multidimensional complex network to dynamically include and internalize, once allowed the necessary ambiguity to operate, as yielding some very new properties and begging a re-definition of both individual and interaction.

Possibly what we mostly need is not enacted codes of confinement and contouring (though this seems the current ‘natural’ reaction present everywhere in our interactions), as much as to re-engineer the description of the emerging subjective "sense”, building a corridor from the paradigm of ‘self’ having a loci and a center, towards an iterative landscape of intelligence allowing to know by processes of simultaneous overlapping – in interaction – via fluid affinity, as opposed to via ownership.

Would you correlate the process of simultaneous overlapping to what you point to as intersubjective?

looking forward to further elaborations on this line.

Wildcat     Thu, Jun 9, 2011  Permanent link
@Starwalker : "Would you correlate the process of simultaneous overlapping to what you point to as intersubjective?"


Thank you for the elaborate comment Starwalker, and yes I see what you are pointing at, indeed Metzinger has paved the way for a larger comprehension of the acquisition of possession by the ‘self’ model of representation.

However, and this is my main proposal, I think that one of the fundamental issues of the evolution of mind that is continuously being either derided as ‘bad’ or alternatively completely disregarded as actually happening, concerns the very real modification in our meta models of reality of that which we consider as ‘me’, ‘us’, ‘mine’ and so on.
If we were to take the old models of perceptual realism, fundamentally recognizing only that which extends from ‘me’ as ‘mine’, creating as it were, a concatenation of concentric circles of possession we would have been still in the Neolithic phase of our civilization evolution.
Before extending into the virtual, consider some very simple extensions of ‘you’ that do not correlate to any physical manifestation, how do you think about your phone number? Does it belong to you? In certain senses it was given to you by your phone company, and in this sense belongs to them, in another sense it is part of your extended identity in that this particular number represents a sequence of procedures that can lead me to you, in other words, ‘you’ are at the end of your phone number, and if nothing else by this sole fact I could with fair certainty conclude and rightly so, that this particular sequence ‘belongs’ to you. Though it is highly probable that you do not ‘own’ the number it is actually a part of you that you reflect upon as an extension of you. This is only a small example to try and emphasize the idea that possession and identity are very loosely correlated concepts; in fact the idea of possession or ownership of body and objects is an outdated principle that needs be upgraded to fit our modern perceptual mechanism.
What I am pointing to is the fact that our identities and by implication all that correlates to said identity should be looked upon as a field being continuously extended in the world outside our bodies, into a larger and larger framework of contexts, some of which can be objectified, as in the phone number example and others which cannot, as of yet, but still operate according to the same principle.

Our bodies at present (and for the currently perceived future) are still the main source of identity recognition under the term rigid designators, however as the field of senses extends into the virtual, more and more of our lives are extrapolated via devices that broaden us and widen our arena of positioning.
Put in the context of the above essay the continuity of overlapping processes and extensions in hyperconnectivity creates more and more nodes of subjectivity (granted that their level of subjectivity differs per mind, per usage ,per time etc.) the most important of which is the hyperconnected avatar as an extensible and highly dynamic form of possession. So what is it that we possess? My take at present is that we possess the field (again the term possess here is inaccurate, we do not possess the field as much as we curate it) and by that operate a highly complex management procedure of meanings and attributes all of which eventually imply upon our process of subjectification and thus identity.
As the process increases in depth and optionality, parts or fragments of this field call in more and more of our subject, when said fragments of the process of subjectification encounter other such fragments the development of intersubjectivity enters a new phase.

I think that this process is at its very initial phase of evolution but I can see where it may lead us, and without holding an initial qualification and value judgment I think it is a good that we do not yet recognize as such.

I will write more extensively on this subject on my next post.
Thanks for eliciting such a thought.


starwalker     Tue, Jun 14, 2011  Permanent link
Thank you for the response.


Find the concept of ‘nodes of subjectivity’ extremely interesting. In the attempt to clarify my understanding further. When using it, are you referring to it as if metaphorically speaking of different nodes in a network? the network that dynamically yields the process of subjectification?


Thus what you describe as the field would be the overall 'set of dynamics' generated upon the network by shifting connections among nodes of subjectivity; the field that defines in time configurations of possible trajectories. Thus curating the one would yield the other.


My next question would be, if this opens as the description of subjects / identities, how does such a subject compute the interaction with ‘the other’; I know it categorically does not belong to the same language but what I mean is how does a process of subjectification interact with parallel processes of subjectification, other than including them and internalizing them as part of itself. In my mind at the moment it is part of a paradox in bridging between descriptions.

On one side of the spectrum the concept of Individual has relations with entities that are clearly separated and contoured from it, yet moving along the spectrum, at the moment through the process of virtualization of identity, to an area where separation is not the prime defining parameter, how are the dynamics between subjects recognized and played, or are they?

I believe there is something profoundly new in this aspect of the process, touched upon by the concept of fluid affinities, that takes a clear line of flight from the limit extrapolation of one meta subject, and yet does not base itself upon rigid separation for interaction.


As a first articulation,