Spectres III — Ghost in the Machine

The expression ‘ghost in the machine’ emerged within a particular context, namely as a critique of Cartesian dualism’s separation of soul and body, and thus served to revive a certain mechanistic materialism. In simple terms, this critique denies the existence of an independent soul (the ‘ghost’) contained in a corporeal organism (the ‘machine’). It asserts, on the contrary, that the ‘soul’ is just a manifestation of the body—that ultimately they are one and the same. Although this remains a fraught question, always accompanied by the risk of slipping into the register of belief, it is resurfacing today in relation to the emergence of artificial intelligences: Can there be such a thing as an artificial intelligence? Can such an intelligence really add up to something more than the sum total of the binary operations that generate it? And what exactly is the ‘artificial’?

Each of the texts included here, in its own way, reveals a different facet of the strange prism formed by this alliance. Each projects its own particular spectrum—or spectre; each reveals a ghost, evokes an apparition that is a composite of ideas, electricity, and operations. This book, then, does not set out to cut the Gordian knot constituted by the question of the possible mutations and becomings of binary logic, and in particular its most recent avatar, AI.

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