Actor Recursion Theory (ART) Procedure and Presentness

Thats the title of my paper which has been accepted for the Aesthetics in the 21st Century Conference Sept 13th – 15th 2012 at the University of Basel.

Details will be on their website, but I’ll post the abstract here for those interested;


Actor Recursion Theory (ART): Procedure and Presentness

“The view that machines cannot give rise to surprises is due, I believe, to a fallacy to which philosophers and mathematicians are particularly subject. This is the assumption that as soon as a fact is presented to a mind all consequences of that fact spring into the mind simultaneously with it. It is a very useful assumption under many circumstances, but one too easily forgets that it is false.”

Alan Turing (1950) Computing Machinery and Intelligence, Mind, 59: pp 433-460, p.451

Any discourse surrounding the implementation of computing into art theory is met with either humanist derision (“the reflection of art in the mind exists at an uncomputable limit”) post-humanist progressive ambition (“there are no limits to fusing mind, art and computation”) or a clash of agencies (“the agency of computing has transformed cultural intelligence”). In most cases, calculating rules and procedures are only considered within the parameters of cultural derision or expansion. But is there any form of aesthetic deliberation given to automated recursion on which procedural machinery is based?

The problem here, as with most cognitive endeavours, is that human intelligence itself has set the – numbingly high – benchmark for meaningful aesthetic relationships that judge whether the output of a machine is capable of being intelligent, or whether the opposite is true; a machine is relegated to automating procedures, the consequences of which are without intelligence. But concomitant with the discovery of computation itself, Alan Turing originally speculated on the surprising, anti-reductionist nature of mechanisms. For him, it was fundamental that even if one understood or knew the programmed rules beforehand, one still discovered surprising results when the procedure was executed in the present.

This view makes it clear that there is more to the role of computation within aesthetics than automating/perturbing human behaviour, demonstrating proofs or enacting tasks more efficiently. The paper will suggest that the very act of mechanical execution is, in itself, aesthetic in so far as, it attains an unpredictable, necessary acting of (art)work; the continued execution of which may remain a surprise even if its determinate. The philosophical importance cannot be overstated; in alignment with the object oriented ontology approach of supporting the existence of individual units, Turing’s anti-reductionism reveals the paradoxical capacity of computation to ruin any obligatory choice between pure automation and construction, emphasising a presentness of both.


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