Final Paper

Frankie Medina

Dr. Steven Wexler

English 654

11 December 2011

Evolution of War and the Remediation of the Human Soldier

            War is all around us. History has chronicled it. And we see war has evolved. Pace has improved by the allowance of target locations to be reached sooner and the deployment of troops to be executed quicker. Primitive warfare has given way to modern tactics. War is no longer restricted to one’s immediate environment as it now may reach across oceans to other ends of the globe. Advancements in technologies have allowed for the incorporation of newer, more sophisticated weaponry, transport, and communications. War has also evolved to a point in which specific governing bodies decide the most logical and effective means of military operation-and these governing bodies may not only be local, but also international, e.g. United Nations. So much of war has changed through time, but one element, up until now, has remained static-the human. Yes, it can be said that the human’s involvement may vary quantitatively or voluntarily, but war has always involved some measure of the human element. This may be changing. Advancements in robotic technologies may soon do away with the need or reliance on the human element-at least as far as literal combat is concerned. Although this has not yet come to fruition, it appears as though we may soon witness a remediation of the human soldier.

In order to truly examine the evolution of war and the possibility of the absence of the human element, a history of warfare must be understood. Quincy Wright, in his 1942 book A Study of War, recognizes three key types of warfare: primitive, historic, and modern. “Primitive peoples”, insists Wright, “only rarely conduct formal hostilities with the object of achieving a tangible economic or political result” (58). This is very contradictory to what many would view to be the driving forces behind many U.S. military operations today. If not driven by economics or politics, what does drive primitive war? Wright goes on to list them: food-when pasturage is short, sex-breaches of the sex mores by non-members of the group, defense of territory, activity-war as sport, self-preservation-when no means of escape presents itself, and society-maintaining social solidarity (75-8). Weapons of the primitive man are “confined to arm-, foot-, or mouth propelled instruments”, e.g. spears, bow, sword (Wright 81). Mobility is “limited to hands and feet” (Wright 81). It is very clear that primitive man, when compared to the modern soldier of war is “lacking” (Wright 82).

Historic war occupies the time “within or between the literate civilizations from Egypt and Mesopotamia down to the age of discovery in the fifteenth century” (Wright 101).  Historic war, contrary to that of primitive and the want of social solidarity, “functioned to promote change rather than stability and…to disintegrate rather than to integrate civilization” (Wright 125). The drives of historic warfare are the same as those which exist with primitive peoples, but “their relative difference has been very different” (Wright 131). Food and sex are of less importance; dominance and independence have become operative, while self-preservation has become less of a worry as civilized man is protected by political and legal institutions (Wright 131, 138). Advancements of weaponry and tactics may be seen in the development of helmets and armor, the principles of mechanical elasticity, torsion, and momentum in siege instruments, integration of animal aide, i.e. the horse, fortification, and the presence of a specialized military class (Wright 144-7).

The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries brought us into modern warfare. Drives of modern warfare are understandably more recognizable to us today. Politics-politicians take interest in war as means to maintain or augment power, economic-economic gain can be achieved through selling war supplies, securing advancement in the military profession, and contributing various services to the conduct of war, culture-societies believe war as the appropriate response to a breaches of mores, and religion-crusading for socially approved symbols (Wright 278-88). Weapons and tactics changed with advent and development of the gun and airplane, the professionalization of armies, the use of steam power for land and water military transportation, the armored vessel, use of mines and submarines (wright 293-302). While many of us are solely familiar with modern warfare of the present time it is difficult for us to comprehend the characteristics of primitive and historic warfare. All one has to go on is the retelling of these characteristics through film and literature. Still, the one characteristic we may grasp more completely than all others is the one which still continues to develop-mechanization.

In each instance of war discussed so far, a present human element was required to perform the tasks required to wield weaponry and enact military tactics. With the advancement of robotics and mechanization, this may no longer be the case. Robert Martinage, senior defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments comments, “‘In the Gulf War, we had smart weapons. Now, increasingly, we are fielding brilliant weapons’” (Martin 67). Brilliant is without a doubt preferred to smart. The rhetoric alone instills the hope that fewer civilian casualties due to miscalculation is possible, the end result is achieved with little to no resistance, and the tactics of war are continuing to evolve even at a point when all wartime necessities and wants are possibly met. Still, the term “brilliant” is applied to a non-human entity. The question arises, with brilliance now a characteristic of weaponry, will the human become obsolete or unnecessary? Will a human presence cease to be required to wield military weaponry? Is brilliance enough to allow for fully autonomous operation? Of course we cannot answer these questions today, but developments of specific military technologies may soon lead to the possibility of answering yes to each of these questions. Then again, if we do not achieve complete autonomous operation in weaponry we can be sure of one thing, the human soldier, when incorporated with such technologies will become remediated.

Raytheon Company is currently developing a robotic suit destined for military use. The suit, named Exoskeleton (XOS 2), “will help with the many logistic challenges faced by the military both in and out of battle” (TechNewsDaily.com). The Exoskeleton allows for repeated lifting of 200 pounds without tiring and repeated punching through three inches of wood. The fact that the XOS 2 uses 50% less power than its predecessor the XOS 1, and is capable of using hydraulic power more efficiently speaks to the fact that not only is technology of this nature present, it is being improved, and is sought after. It is hard to argue why it should not be developed. The Exoskeleton can do the work of two or three soldiers, relieve stress to the soldier caused by heavy lifting, yet is still graceful enough to kick a soccer ball (TechNewsDaily.com). As of today the Exoskeleton requires a “pilot” to maneuver the suit and has a 40-minute battery life, but once these problems are solved there is no reason to assume the Exoskeleton will not soon be “striding across the battlefield like an armored, missile-launching gazelle” (Zimbio.com).

This is an extraordinary thought. An unmanned, armored, and armed entity deployed by the military to subdue combatants. Immediately one’s thought may go to the belief that human loss will be almost unheard of. The absence of the human element will allow for only the loss of machinery rather than human life. This is encouraging. Especially with the development of these brilliant weapons that are held by multiple militaries, not just the U.S. Yet, how will the unmanned robot act? Will it act like a human or machine? Will it know its objectives? Will it recognize friend from foe? Is the risk of failure worth the gain of success? These questions must be answered. They revolve around morals, ethics, and social acceptance of the technology.

Alan Turing and Hans Moravec both developed tests to show relations between man and machine. Alan Turing, author of “Computer Machinery and Intelligence”, developed a test which places a human subject in front of a computer terminal. Using this terminal the human subject is to “communicate with two entities in another room”, these entities cannot be seen. The job of the human subject is to “pose questions that can distinguish verbal performance from embodied reality” and decide which of the entities he or she is communicating with is man and which is machine. If one cannot distinguish between the two correctly, the test is failed and Turing’ hypothesis that “machines can think” becomes true. (Hayles xi). The successor to the Turing test is the Moravec test. This test is aimed at proving “that machines can become the repository of human consciousness-that machines can, for all practical purposes, become human beings” (Hayles xii).

A machine thinking. A machine becoming a human being. How is this possible? To aid in answering this question it may be beneficial to look at a definition of information formalized by Claude Shannon and Norbert Werner. Shannon and Werner’s definition of information “conceptualized information as an entity distinct from the substrates carrying it”. N. Katherine Hayles goes on to comment that “[f]rom this formulation, it was a small step to think of information as a kind of bodiless fluid that could flow between different substrates without loss of meaning or form” (xi). This lead to Moravec’s proposition that “human identity is essentially an informational pattern rather than an embodied enaction” (Hayles xii). With information being an independently sustaining entity, and human identity being nothing more than a formation of information, it is easy to understand that “embodiment is not essential to human being” (Hayles 4).

If we are to take these theories as true, then why can we not assume robotic machinery, such as the previously mentioned Exoskeleton, can perform the tasks of a human soldier while processing any logic that accompanies those tasks? It would appear that all that needs to be done to achieve a thinking autonomous machine is the transferring of information. And if information can be passed between substrates without change in form then this should be quite feasible. Speaking to this, Hayles reminds us that “for information to exist, it must always be instantiated in a medium” (13). While this does throw a wrench into the theory of information and materiality as distinct entities, technological advancements in robotics justify the hope/dream/fantasy that information imbedded in an autonomous machine will allow for it to become human, or at least close to it.

While many will agree with Hayles that information and materiality cannot function as distinct entities, it is interesting to continue the discussion and suppose the phenomena of autonomous machinery in the military will be accepted as a replacement or remediation of the human soldier. Colin and Wendell Allen, co-authors of Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong, respond to P.W. Singer’s article “Robots at War: The New Battlefield”. The Allen’s focus is on Singer’s failure to “mention the possibility of using artificial intelligence to mitigate ethical problems” (6). Colin and Wendell Allen do not believe it possible to “create such machines” with “moral decision-making faculties” (6). The Allen’s go on to state that without the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, “autonomous robots are a bad idea” (6). David Axe, author of War Bots, commenting on the same Singer article in which Singer does acknowledge the danger of replacing “thinking, feeling soldiers with emotionless robots…but [also] describes military circles as enthusiastic about this new technology”, comments that “as much as ever, a young infantryman with a rifle, two hands, two eyes, and a brain is the single most important and powerful weapon in an army’s inventory” (6). William O. Waddell, Director, Command and Control Group, Center for Strategic Leadership, U.S. Army War College, adding to the discussion questions the ethics of robots in war. Waddell insists robotic technology “involves the usurpation of decision-making processes”, and goes on to ask “what message do we send by dispatching robots to fight humans?…How do these new technologies fit in with existing legal and ethical codes?” He also questions “the future availability of these technologies to any nation or group that could afford them” (7).

It is quite clear a heightened sense of skepticism accompanies the thought of robotic technology in war. And this alone may be enough to slow the process of implement into combat. Federico Pistono, author of Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK: How to Survive the Economic Collapse and Be Happy, comments that technology may be slowed by non-acceptance-although this will only hinder the inevitable, so it safe to assume that the implement of robotic technology into the military and thus the replacement and remediation of the human soldier is only a matter of time.

Now that we have covered, although briefly the feelings of humans on the concept of robotic technology in war, perhaps it would be interesting to theorize how the robotic machines themselves would feel. In his short work “The Feelings of Robots”, Paul Ziff considers the possibility of “attribut[ing] feelings to the machine and so blur the line between man and machine” (64). This is perhaps quite similar to the theories of Turing and Moravec previously discussed. If human identity is nothing more than informational pattern and information can be passed unchanged between substrates then machines should be able to be made to feel. To this Ziff says no. Ziff argues, “Only living creatures can literally have feelings” (64). Because, according to Ziff, “robots are not persons” a robot “may kill but not literally murder” (65). Ziff states “there are no psychological truths about robots” and that is why “no robot could be sensibly said to feel anything” (67). Ziff argues that robots act exactly as it is “programmed” to act (68). This may be a benefit to war. If a robot feels exactly as it is made to feel it will never question authority, orders, purpose, or ethics. The robot will never feel fear or remorse. And because robots are “replaceable” there is theoretically no end to the quantity of robots to be made to the military’s disposal.

A seemingly endless supply of identical, obeying, non-feeling machines capable of claiming the risk of death from the human soldier is an amazing thought. Imagine the quantity of mechanical soldiers possible to be placed on the front lines. They are perhaps numbers not approachable by human soldiers given the voluntary nature of our military. At a 2007 Military History Symposium, Major General (Retired) Robert H. Scales, Jr. commented on the need for more infantry:

But as I said, I think, increasingly, as you move to the small units, it’s probably

more important to focus on the human. What do we have to do to fix the problem in

this new age of infantry?

Number one is make more of them. If you put every infantryman in this nation in

one stadium…they will not fill FedEx stadium. We have more first line Air Force and

Navy fighter aircraft, costing between $50 and $450 million apiece than we have

infantry squads. 2,475 if you want to know the number. So we just need more. (258-9)

Of course Major General Scales is most likely speaking of an increased number of human infantry in his speech, but nonetheless, the need for more is made apparent. The state of the infantry needs to be improved quantitatively. Technological advancements in robotics may allow for autonomous machinery to fill that need.

The technology is still in development, and once development is completed acceptance of the technology must be accepted into combat situations. This acceptance will be based on many things. Morals and ethics will be chief among these deciding factors. Will it benefit military operations to replace the human soldier with a remediated form of itself? If the Exoskeleton is capable of operation without a pilot and is capable of receiving information passed from a human source, what then would be the limits of this technology? It is hard to say. Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin point out that “technological limitations simply point to its great potential” (22). If this is true the possibilities of robotic technology are boundless. So much so that it may cause the fear of “humans [being] displaced as the dominant form of life on the planet by intelligent machines” and thus causing a belief that “the age of the human is coming to a close” (Hayles 283).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Allen, Colin, Wendell Wallach, David Axe, William O. Waddell, and Alex Roland. “Robots at

War.” The Wilson Quarterly 33.2 (2009): 6-7, 9. JSTOR. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: The

MIT Press, 2000. Print.

Brooks, Michael G., and Kendell D. Gott, eds. Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors:

            Implications for the US Army. Fort Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2007.

Print.

Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and

            Informatics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999. Print.

Lowry, Ritchie P. “To Arms: Changing Military Roles and the Military-Industrial Complex.” Social

            Problems. 18.1 (1970): 3-16. JSTOR. Web. 4 November 2012.

Martin, Randy. An Empire of Indifference: American War and The Financial Logic of Risk

            Management. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007. Print.

Pistono, Federico. Interview by Phil Bowermaster. Transparency Revolution. February 2012.

Youtube.com. Web.

Wright, Quincy. A Study of War. 2nd ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1965. Print.

Ziff, Paul. “The Feelings of Robots.” Analysis 19.3 (1959): 64-8. JSTOR. Web. 4 Nov. 2012.

 

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Empire of Indifference

I must admit, this book got me thinking. Martin opened my eyes to the possibility of new beliefs regarding the risk and intention of war or military operations. I am not saying that my own subjective beliefs have changed but I did engage in some internal discourse. I had interaction with texts and video clips that presented opposing views to my own while preparing for the class discussion Sara and I will be leading tonight. I considered the meaning myself and others assign to terms like prevention, intervention, preemption.

Of course I have heard these terms before and do have my own beliefs toward their implications. As I researched material related to Martin’s book I found information which both agreed with and vilified my own beliefs. It of course was a little difficult to hear some speaking against my feelings with such conviction, but I did find myself understanding how some develop an opposing view.

It became apparent that an all-inclusive universal belief system will never be achieved. There is too much rhetoric presented from both sides of an argument to allow for total agreement, which is unfortunate but at the same time this reminds us that one is both capable and allowed the right to develop one’s own belief system. And although I believe one side may argue more emotionally than logically in many cases on specific topics I have found myself respecting another’s willingness to argue one side against the other. Even though I do not agree with a lot of the views I came across, I was happy I did interact with them.

Martin’s book does present material very relevant to today. I suspect this is because we are not only in an election year, (in fact an election day), but a lot of his material is related to foreign policy which is no doubt of extreme importance every day of human life, but especially this year because of the presidential election.

I am looking forward to hear others’ feelings towards martin’s book. I am curious to know if anyone found themselves redefining any of their beliefs. I suppose I will learn this tonight while Sara and I present.

Analysis Paper #2

Frankie Medina

Dr. Steven Wexler

English 654

30 October 2012

An Interview with Federico Pistono

In the 1997 book Cutting Edge: Technology, Information, Capitalism, and Social Revolution, Thomas A. Hirschl asks the question, “If electronics technology replaces labor, where will the jobs be in ‘information capitalism’?” This is both a complex and frightening question for multiple reasons. First, the very fact that it is being asked illustrates the possibility of job loss to automation, as Hirschl points out, “because electronics technology embodies the theoretical potential for wageless production…there are no limits to the quantity of labor that can be eliminated” (Hirschl 165). Second, Hirschl’s use of the term “labor” seems to insist that labor is the only commodity many individuals have to offer and sell as a means to earn wages and secure wellbeing. Third, the fact that his question is asked of an environment within information capitalism asserts contemporary economy has evolved into an entity in which “‘post-industrial’ society [is] transform[ing]” (Hirschl 167).

Unfortunately jobs are being lost to automation and have been for quite some time, but the answer to Hirschl’s question may still only be theorized. In February 2012, Phil Bowermaster of Transparency Revolution interviewed Federico Pistono, author of Robots Will Steal Your Job but That’s OK: How to Survive the Economic Collapse and Be Happy. Their topic of discussion, speaking toward structural unemployment and qualitative transformation of capitalism, was the role automation is playing in transforming the economy and the changing employment landscape. Pistono foresees an upcoming economic collapse due to structural unemployment and thus a catastrophic change in the economic model. Perhaps it is due to the fact that the “intrinsic power of electronics technology can be applied almost universally to the economy and society” (Hirschl 160) that rhetoric such as ‘collapse’ and ‘catastrophic’ is used to describe technologies movement into a “destroyer mode” (of jobs). It is unfortunate a negative rhetoric is now used to describe technology, especially since new technology, says Pistono, is usually used by society as a propelling force.

But this new technology of automation is displacing jobs faster than it can replace them. In fact, the only jobs being created are of a technical and specialized nature encompassing flexibility, ingenuity, and high education. Pistono admits these jobs are hard to get leaving many without jobs and without income. Bowermaster points out to Pistono that economist Arnold Kling predicts a loss of middle class jobs, what Kling terms the “big middle”, neither high nor low employment. A rhetorical term such as ‘big middle’ suggests that Kling predicts a vast majority of employed individuals are in danger of losing their jobs to automation. Pistono agrees with Kling. Pistono expects job loss of 18 million in office and administration work, as well as 16 million in production, transportation, and material moving over the next five to ten years. Pistono also anticipates a loss of jobs in higher level employment such as law with 1.7 million lawyers losing their jobs due to automated legal software. With such extravagant job loss in varying fields and an apparent belief in the obsolescence of human labor “it becomes apparent that technology has had major implications not just for the quantity of labor demanded, but more importantly, for the quality of what constitutes labor” (Hirschl 161).

It is an interesting rhetoric Hirschl uses when he writes of what ‘constitutes’ labor. This rhetoric insists labor may be dispersed among activities which may not first come to mind when one considers employment. Bowermaster also mentions the beliefs of James Clark Chance Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College, Walter Russell Mead. Mead argues we are experiencing an “economy in transition”. This is a much light-hearted rhetoric describing the contemporary economic change. Mead insists that as long as humanity continues “wanting”, humanity can make a living satisfying wants and creating new ones. This type of economy will be based on personal services or life-style industries. Jobs would include massage therapist, chef, dance instructor-services that do exist today, but are also activities that a robot might not be able to do affectively, at least not for a while. Mead makes an interesting point insisting the economy can be driven by ‘want’ rather than necessity. It is much more comforting to read rhetoric like ‘want’ associated with economy/industry as opposed to ‘collapse’, ‘catastrophic’, or ‘structural unemployment’.

Still, the question arises; can an economy be based on a life-style industry? Can humanity sustain its want while also satisfying its basic needs for survival? Will humanity be willing to offer labor in exchange for the means to purchase personal services? Pistono believes sustaining the economy is possible if society redefines what is meant by work/jobs/occupation. Pistono argues for a voluntary economy or drive purpose economy. In stating this, Pistono appears to insist that aside from emerging technical and specialized jobs, employment within information capitalism must be found in labors individuals would like to do rather than have to do.

Works Cited

Davis, Jim, Thomas Hirschl, and Michael Stack, eds. Cutting Edge: Technology, Information,

            Capitalism, and Social Revolution. New York: Verso, 1997. Print.

Pistono, Federico. Interview by Phil Bowermaster. Transparency Revolution. February 2012.

Youtube.com. Web.

Robots and Innovative Technologies

Despite the many changing and evolving benefits one may find in the use of automated machinery, or any innovative technology, I believe one constant remains-the human element. I have a lot of faith in the human (element). I know I have battered the individual, insisting it may be nieve, incapable of functioning within specific environments, an entity from which certain information should be withheld, and one to whom certain rights should not be available. Yet, when I speak of the human (element), I speak of the human race as a collective whole. I believe humans are capable of discovering, harnessing those discoveries, inventing, and reinventing myriad things. Take for example the discovery and use of fire, the creation of literature and sciences, e.g. physics, calculus, astronomy, medicine, not to mention the human ability to engage in discourse with its contemporaries. The human has, with its initiative, (yes, sometimes dictated by necessity), ambition, physical and psychlogical efforts, and drive towards a specific goal accomplished much to be proud of. And now some believe a machine, an inaminate object can replace the human. True, the term ‘mimic’ is used to describe a machine or robot’s relation to the human, but it is clear the aim of robotics is to replace the human.

This does not sit well with me. I do not believe and will not accept the notion that a machine/robot is capable of making the human obsolete. To my enjoyment a lot of what we as a class read for this week encouraged my disregard for automated technologies. Perhaps, disregard is too strong a word. Please understand I am fully aware of the advancement automated technologies has made possible. The precision and speed with which machinery/robots can work is almost immeasurable. In the production environment a machine does not rest, sleep, take breaks, or suffer from emtoion. Machinery/robots can repeat repetive, mundane tasks without mistake. A machine/robot will engage itself in any job free of question. Unfortunately, the human cannot, or in many cases will not, do what the robot can. This may point to a dominance of automation over the human, but I must argue, the automated technologies of which we interact, or at least have knowledge of, are only existant and capable of accomplishing what they accomplish because of a human element as predecessor-an entity which develops, constructs, programs, and maintains the technologies.

The human is the basis of all technology. It is the human brain that truely accomplishes all these great things. No inaminate object can just spring into being. Its inclusion or introduction into the world is done at the hand of the human. Furthermore, had the human not pocessed the need, or perhaps we should say the want, of a specific end then specific automated technologies would have never come into existance. In the case of machines/robots the human is the first mover. The one that sets all into motion. (I am in way attempting to liken the human to deity, just illustrating its ability to create inaminate objects). The reason a machine/robot is capable of performing tasks with the repetition, accuracy, and ease with which they do is because the human has made them, or programmed them, that way.

Still, despite how I feel about the hype given to automated technologies I am aware they are present and in use in everyday life. Let me reiterate, it is not the use of these technologies that upsets me, it is a obsolescence given to the human which accompanies these technologies. I am not assuming this obsolescence is given to the human by everyone, but it is by enough for this act to become a discussion. It is for this reason I enjoyed reading a lot of what we did.

Tessa Morris-Suzuki writes in “Robots and Capitalism” that “all labor involves the purposeful application of human knowledge…this application occurs directly, withput the intervention of tools or machinery” (Davis 16). Suzuki appears to be arguing that the knowledge creating technology is without technological influence. I agree, and this illustrates the human ability. Considering the play-back robot we see a separation of the machine from worker, but this is only physical. The knowledge instilled by the human remains as machines work “endlessly responding to instructions provided by workers” (Davis 18). To continue, Guglielmo Carchedi argues in his “High-Tech Hype: Promises and realities of technology in the Twenty-First Century” that “only people create value” (Davis 74). This points to the belief that “labor cannot under capitalism be dispensed with” (Davis 80). If a machine creates the product replacing the human worker the worker is left without the wages that would be used to purchase the goods, this causes a loss in profits. Even though an automated machine may be producing more quickly and at a lower cost, when considering worker’s benefits, the human remains necessary as producer (of value) and purchaser. Furthermore, the reinventing and improving these automated technologies occurs only with human work/labor. Martin Kenney in his “Value Creation in the Late Twentieth Century: The Rise of the Knowlege Worker”, when discussing “the ability of human beings to use their intellectual capabilities to create new solutions” to combat the ever-changing world of innovative technologies argues, “knowledge creation is a profoundly social activity, one that is the result of both individual effort and social interaction” (Davis 88). Not only is the human as an individual necessary, but also the human as a social entity with which to engage in discourse with. To continue the discussion of human knowledge, when discussing software as “instructions”, Kenney informs us “it is the [human] knowledge embedded in a commoditythat creates its value” (Davis 93). The human both creates and embeds this knowledge. The knowledge is not a creation of the machine/robot, but a tool of use to perform the activties assigned, by humans, to it.

Without the human machines would be useless, in fact they would be non-existant. Again I am willing to acknowledge the activities automated technologies are capable of performing, but I will not forget the ever present human element. The human will always be necessary despite how often its physical presence ceases to be necessary.

Analysis Paper #1

 

Frankie Medina

 

Dr. Steven Wexler

 

English 654

 

02 October 2012

 

“homo doctus, pius, & bonus”

 

In 1536 William Tindall was executed in front of the castle of Filford. His crime was the translation of the Old and New Testaments into English, an action considered “not lawful” by the contemporary “spiritual fathers” (Foxe 124). Tindall believed the clergy to be “wresting the Scripture unto their own purpose” and thus keeping the truth of the text “hidden from the [lay] people’s eyes” (Foxe 122). Tindall’s translation was to “plainly la[y] [the Scripture] before their eyes in their mother tongue that they might see the meaning of the text” (Foxe 122). Tindall’s action was feared by the clergy; they believing it would not only turn the lay people into “heretics”, but also “make the people rise against the king” (Foxe 124). A visual representation of Tindall’s execution accompanies this paper. Tindall is seen standing on top of a small scaffold, upon which he was “strangled first by the hangman and afterwards with fire consumed” (Foxe 130). He is surrounded by a large audience with the castle of Filford seen in the rear. A presence of clergy may be recognized when considering the dress of certain viewers. A banner encloses what is said to be Tindall’s final words, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes” (Foxe 130).

 

An examination of the accompanied image will show a lack of immediacy. If present and working effectively, immediacy should cause “the medium itself to disappear and leave us in the presence of the thing represented”, in this specific instance standing below the scaffold upon which Tindall stands (Bolter 6). This is not achieved with the still, non-digital, black and white picture. An observer is aware they are not present viewing the action depicted. Despite a “desire for immediacy…in visual representation”, a failure to “Eras[e] the surface” occurs leaving a “perfect product” unattained (Bolter 24-5). Hypermeidacy may be seen in low level. A medium which is considered hypermediated is one that combines “text, graphics, and video”, like the CNN website examined by Bolter and Grusin (9). Without a doubt the level of hypermedia achieved by the CNN website should not be compared to that of the still photo depicting Tindall’s execution, but when considering the contemporary technological limitations, e.g. lack of computer animation and digital graphics, hypermedia may be seen in the combination of still graphics and text representing Tindall’s final words. Although one will recognize a lack of immediacy and a limited hypermedia, it still holds that this depiction of Tindall’s death is a remediation. The photo “reform[s]” a live, true action (Bolter ix).

 

When a judgment as substantial as condemning one to death is made, the question of who made the final decision arises. It may be assumed the decision to execute Tindall was made by a very specific group of people. This group of people may bring to mind the public sphere discussed by Jurgen Habermas. Participants of Habermas’s public sphere met in “salons, and coffee houses” (Habermas xii) to discuss, among other things, “political disputes” (Habermas 33). Habermas’s public sphere should be “open to all” (Habermas 1), with “privatized individuals coming together to form a public” (Habermas 51). This is not the case with the meeting of priests, some of which are arguably represented in the image, in “alehouse[s]” to discuss the “heresy” they saw in Tindall’s actions (Foxe 120). These meetings became exclusionary with the participants being only members of the clergy. Furthermore, these exclusionary meetings caused a distorted public opinion, or at least what would be considered public opinion because the church had final say in many, if not all political issues. Public opinion, Habermas argues, is “opinion purified through critical discussion in the public sphere”, but if the sphere contemporary to Tindall is restricted to clergy it cannot be considered made up of private individuals and thus cannot be public (Habermas 95).

 

The depiction of Tindall’s execution may be seen as a medium which conveys information-the manner in which Tindall spent his final moments. The quantity of information present in the image must be examined when considering “the conviction that quantitative changes in information are bringing into being a qualitatively new sort of social system” (Webster 9). Yet, with the lack of information conveyed, due to technological limitations, one might turn their attention to Theodore Roszak’s argument that “’master ideas’ which underpin our civilization…are central ideas of our society-but all come before information” (Webster 24). Ideas such as “’live and let live’” are “more foundational to society than any amount of accumulated information” (Webster 24-5). Roszak’s argument may add credence to the belief that information’s “form and function are subordinate to long-established principles and practices”, especially when reflecting on the restricted and uninformed environment within which the decision to execute Tindall was made. To continue, the importance of these ‘master ideas’ may be recognized when contemplating Manuel Castells ideas on the “’space of flows’” (Webster 108). Castells argues “information flows becom[e] central to the organisation of…society” (Webster 108). Within Tindall’s contemporary society there is a limitation of information flows. Information cannot spread as effectively, quickly, nor as widely as today so it may be argued the organization of Tindall’s contemporary society was restricted-leaving room for only the biased view of Tindall’s actions.

 

Although the ideas presented by the works of Frank Webster, Jurgen Habermas, and Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin were not introduced until the twentieth century, relations can be made to the sixteenth century depiction of Tindall’s execution. One can recognize the conveying of information, a remediation of a live, true event, hints of hypermedia, an allusion to a restricted public sphere and opinion, and an allusion to the predominance of ‘master ideas’ over information.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Massachusetts:

 

MIT Press, 2000. Print.

 

Foxe, John. “The Book of Martyrs.” Collection of Elizabethan Texts. Comp. Susanne Collier. 2008.

 

Print.

 

Habermas, Jurgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of

 

                Bourgeois Society. Trans. Thomas Burger. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1991. Print.

 

Webster, Frank, ed. Theories of the Information Society. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

 

 

 

 

 

Informational Capitalism

I must admit that with my reading of chapter five of Frank Webster’s Theories of the Information Society in which we are introduced to Manuel Castells’s ideas of ‘informational capitalism,’ I was very much taken back to Jurgen Habermas and his observations of the public sphere. I, for myself, discovered what I believe to be relations between the two. I am not saying that I see a similarity between Castells and Habermas, it is very much the opposite in fact. I believe, based on what I have read of Habermas, and that of Castells, which is limited to what one finds in Webster’s book and does not include Castells’s three volume work The Information Age, that the two may have contradictory beliefs about the characteristics of a public sphere-although this term is not, if at all, as widely used by Castells as Habermas.

Castells believes we have entered a ‘networked society.’ This is easy enough to believe, accept, understand. It appears most, if not a vast majority, of all businesses, public and private, rely on a network, in varying size, to conduct some, most, or all aspects of their business transactions. Even the public as consumers may rely on a network to consume the products or services offered by theses public and private businesses. Yet, to get a little deeper into the discussion, it is the participation of those in ‘informational capitalism’ that Castells speaks of that sparks my interest in what he argues.

The ‘informational capitalism’ that Castells discusses,  “utilises information networks to conduct its affairs” (Webster 102). These information networks can be said to have owners, those who own the capital which drives the business of which the networks are a part and also workers, those who create, implement, work on/with these networks. It is these workers whom I relate to the public sphere of which we receieved some introduction to from Habermas.

Habermas’s work The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere asserts that inclusion into the public sphere should be open to all. As I have previously posted, I do not agree with this. The simple fact that one is part of a society does not automatically instill in them the insight to discuss critically the most crucial topics facing a society. Only those educated should be permitted to discuss such topics in a forum which will have such profound affects. (That being public opinion formed in the public sphere). Returning to Castell, he argues that “in a ‘network society’ everything is about speed of response and adaptability in a global market, what counts above all else is networks” (Webster 104). This brings us back to the workers of the networks.

Castells notices a “devolution of power” (Webster 105) and “hierarchies being pulled down” (Webster 103). This power is leaving the owners of capital and being passed to the network workers. This may seem a little odd. It may be popular belief that those with the money are in control. After all it is their capital which allows for the existence of the business/corporation, it is their capital that pays the workers, it is their capital that funds the implement of a network, but according to Castell this does not matter.

Castell argues capital takes a back seat to ‘informational labour.’ Informational labour, argues Castell, is “the glue bonding informational capitalism together…since ownership of capital is no longer sufficient to make headway in today’s world” (Webster 114). If this is true then those employed in informational labour need to be highly educated and highly adaptable in order to keep businesses and corporations in business. Because of this I believe participation in this informational labour class must be exclusionary.

With so much of a networked society’s well being being dependent on the longevity of those networks over which business transactions are conducted, the network workers must be picked from a select few. Those chosen must be able to perform and get results. They must be capable of earning their inclusion into the realm of informational labour. Unfortunately, not all of us are. This is something that must be accepted. One must not expect inclusion into a group simply beacuse they are a living entity who longs for inclusion or believes it is a birth right.

It is this belief that leads me to side with Castell that the gates leading into the realm of informational labour should be “opened to those who attain academic credentials” and closed to those “incapable of achieving the qualifications to be an informational worker” (Webster 115).

Now, I am not insisting that informational labour is the only labour, even though Castell insists ‘generic labor’ is facing demise and that “[i]nformational labour is nowadays the prime source of wealth”, but with the importance laid on the participants of informational labour the group must be selective (Webster 114). I still believe in the importance of the individual at all levels, but also in the exclusion of individuals from specific groups with specific duties. We cannot expect certain individuals, when placed into environments based solely on a want to participate rather than an ability to participate, to achieve the goals set for those within the environment. Sometimes expectations and requirements are too high for some to achieve. There is nothing wrong with this. We all have our limitations. It is important for us to realize this and willfully allow the capable to interact where others cannot.

the public sphere

As I first began to read Jurgen Habermas’s The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, I noticed what I believe to be a necessity of the individual. The individual observes spectacle and “publicness”, the indidividual participates in conversation in the salons and coffee houses, which are forums for the discussion of those topics deemed important, the individual writes letters, which are mediums for the transfer of information and personal feeling, the individual is a critic, and the individual is part of a family. To continue, the individual is “private”, and it is an individual’s “privateness” that he or she contributes to the public sphere.

I must admit, this sort of made me feel good. I suppose this is so because when I hear the word “public” I immediately think of the public as a single entity void of any other parts. I do not consider all the inviduals that make up the public. Yet, Habermas has led me to see the public and individual differently.

Like I say, being told that everyone, including myself, is part of this great entity the public sphere is kind of encouraging, especially when considering how the public sphere, and “public opinion”, functions inside the political realm. Public opinion can work as an insight to a ruler. Public opinion can voice what the public, as a whole of “private” individuals, considers is best for themselves as a people. This voice is quite important, and should be equally beneficial considering the belief that the aim of politics is “‘to make the public satisfied with its condition'” (113).

A lot of power is given to this public voice. And why not? It is being generated by each and every private individual, because it is argued that no one should be nor can be excluded from the public sphere. It may be a comforting thought knowing you can join, in fact may already be part of this public sphere, and your inclusion is guaranteed. Now I must admit, this is where I kind of lose faith in the public sphere.

Opinion publique is given “the strict meaning of an opinion purified through critical discussion in the public sphere to constitute a true opinion” (95). Perhaps it is beacause I am currently reading Plato’s Republic in another class, but I am questioning whether or not it is safe not to allow entrance into the public sphere to all private individuals. I do believe an individual is intelligent, but people are ignorant. Only a knowledgeable and educated individual is capable, I believe, of engaging in “critical discussion.” This knowledgeable and educated person must be able to distinguish between truth and biased or distorted information, which a knowledge and education may be based.

I know it is far fetched, and I am not part of this class, but I sort of feel like only those individuals who mirror those worthy of governing Plato’s great city state are capable of participating in the public sphere-that is of course if we are to assign to it all the power it is said to be capable of pocessing. An individual needs to have a ture knowledge of any and all things they are to critically discuss. Watching a thirty minute special on television, or reading a two page article on the web does not give one the knoelwedge he or she requires to discuss the important issues facing a society. (Although, many individuals do participate in discussion with just this kind of pseudo-knowledge).

This leads me to the transperancy in government that was mentioned in Habermas’s work. Many individuals would prefer total transperancy in government. Many want to know each and every political discussion verbatim. This is extremely dangerous. There are countless goings on in government that the public simply does not need to know. I do not say this to allow for the cover up of corruption that may be present in government. We all know everyone in government is coruupt to some degree. Yes, some more than others, but they are all corrupt. (Even those I prefer to see in office). But, corruption is not the reason I am against transperancy. It is the uneducated individual’s inability to understand or accept the processes and outcomes of political discussion and their inability to understand or accept the execution of those actions considered beneficial or most necessary in the present state of society. Again I would like to repeat, a person is intelligent, people are ignorant.

Make no mistake an opinion is a great thing. One has the right, in America, to develop, hold, and voice his or her own subjective opinon(s). I know I have my own personal opinions, many of which numerous people would argue against, maybe even vilify me for, but that is okey. It is the presentation of those subjective opinions in an influential or political forum, e.g. the public sphere, that is dangerous.

A public opinion must be developed through critical discussion within a public sphere. That is understandable. A public sphere is made up of “private” individuals. That makes sense. No one can be denied access into the public sphere. That is a problem.

(Perhaps I am not understanding this concept of the public sphere. I hope to receive clarification from anyone who may be able to offer any.)