Thinking Machines

This course is dedicated to an understanding of machines based on cybernetic principles of communication and control and related concepts of open, complex and distributed systems. It will especially focus on the emergence of intelligent machines, which challenge the distinction between the natural and the artificial, the biological and the mechanical.

The course seeks to develop a philosophical approach adequate to our rapidly changing – and ever more intimate - relationship with machines. It will do so by examining the work of five thinker/practitioners: Norbert Weiner, one of the founders of cybernetics, the AI practitioner Hans Moravec, the roboticist Rodney Brooks, the techno-theorist Kevin Kelly and the machinic philosophers Deleuze & Guattari.

The aims of the course are as follows:
1. To introduce students to topics in cybernetics, AI, and robotics, which will allow them to analyze such questions as: What is a machine? What is our relation to machines? What would a machinic politics or philosophy be like?
2. To introduce a machinic way of thinking which can be applied to technological, biological, economic and sociological systems.
3. To enable students to critically examine theoretical issues in cyberculture and to demonstrate these skills through writing and discussions.

Assigned Readings

Kevin Kelly, Out of Control. Perseus Books, 1994
Course Pack. Thinking Machines.

Weekly Breakdown

1. Introduction (The Machine as Mechanism)
(Film - Modern Times)

2. Reconceptualizing Machines
(Butler, Book of Machines, Deleuze and Guattari, Capitalism and Schizophrenia -Handouts)

3. Cybernetic Machines
(Wiener - Cybernetics, Kelly - Emergence of Control, [OC, 111-127])

4. Cybernetic Machines cont.
(McLuhan - Cybernation and Society, Wiener - Human Use of Human Beings)

5.  Technophobia
(Film – Frankenstein, Wiener - God and Golem, Joy - Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us)

6. Artificial Intelligence
(Moravec - When Will Computer Hardware Match the Human Brain,  Kasparov - The Day I Sensed a New Kind of Intelligence, Kasporav – IBM Owes Mankind a Rematch)

7. Artificial Intelligence/ Robotics
 (Moravec, The Universal Robot, Moravec – Robot, Film - Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, Kelly - ‘Machines with Attitude’ [OC, 29-56],

8. Robots
Brooks - Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, Brooks – Flesh and Machines)

9. Complex Machines
(Kelly – Hive Mind [OC, 5-28], Kelly – Network Economics [OC, 184-202])]

10. Complex Machines cont
 (Deleuze and Guattari - Rhizome)

Further Reading

Delanda, Manuel. War in the Age of Intelligent Machines. Zone, 1992
Bateson, Gregory. Steps to An Ecology of Mind. The University of Chicago Press, 1972
Galison, Peter. “The Ontology of the Enemy.” Critical Inquiry, August 1994, Vol. 21 Number 1
Heims, Steve. The Cybernetic Group. MIT Press, 1991
Hayles, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman. The University of Chicago Press, 1999
Incorporations. Ed Jonathon Crary and Stanford Kwinter. Zone, 1992
Prigogene, Ilya and Isabelle Stengers. Order Out of Chaos. New Science Library, Shambhala Publications, Inc, 1984
Massumi, Brian. A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia : Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari. MIT Press, 1992
McLuhan Hot and Cold. Ed Gerald Emanuel Stern, Signet Books, 1969

Web sites
Hans Moravec -
Rodney Brooks -