Jos de Mul. The Turing Test in recent science fiction films. A philosophical analysis against the background of the Turing-Wittgenstein Debate. Kyoto: Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories, June 21, 2016.
The British mathematician, computer scientist and philosopher Alan Turing (1912 -1954) is not only the inventor of the programmable computer, but also one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence. He also invented the imitation game, a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. This so-called Turing test plays a prominent role in several recent science fiction movies, such as Her (2013), Ex machina(2015), and Uncanny (2015). Against the background of the Turing-Wittgenstein debate on the possibility of thinking machines (1938), I will discuss what these movies tell us about the present prospects with regard to humanoid AI and robot systems.
Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories were founded to encourage and promote studies based on original and unique ideas from Hiroshi Ishiguro, ATR Fellow, who has remarkable achievements on robotics. We have explored new information media based on humanlike robots that harmonize humans with information-environment beyond existing personal computers, while inquiring the question "what is the essence of human beings?"
Erica is an android developed as a research platform for the autonomous conversational robot. We are developing total technology to enable Erica to have natural interaction with persons by integrating various technologies such as voice recognition, human tracking, and natural motion generation. It has nineteen degrees of freedom for face, neck, shoulder, and waist, and can express various facial expressions and some gestural motions. Its appearance is designed for beautiful and neutral female face, by which people can familiarly interact with it. It speaks in synthesized voice.
Jos de Mul. Noble versus Dawkins. DNA is not the program of the concert of life. Vrij Nederland #13, 2 april, 2016, 77-81.
Forty years ago Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene launched Neo-Darwinism to the general public. It is still as controversial as it was then. Philosopher Jos de Mul examines the case of Dawkins' biggest critic: Denis Noble.
Text: Jos de Mul
Illustrations: Siegfried Woldhek
IT IS FORTY YEARS since the publication of Richard Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene, published in Dutch as De zelfzuchtige genen. Over evolutie, agressie en eigenbelang. This text of 'orthodox neo-Darwinism’ (Dawkins' own words) sold 1 million copies in more than 25 languages. Probably since Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859) no other biology book has had such a huge influence both on general public understanding of what it is to be human, and on scientific research, not only in the life sciences, but also in the social sciences and humanities. It is a particularly radical book which with its brilliantly worded message - that organisms are not much more than temporary vehicles for their immortal genes – expresses a reductionist, dramatically deterministic and ultimately nihilistic image of humanity.
The Modular Body is an online science fiction story about the creation of OSCAR, a living organism built from human cells. The protagonist is Cornelis Vlasman, a versatile biologist for whom the path well-travelled is the most uninteresting one by definition. Together with a few like-minded people he therefore starts an independent laboratory in which he experiments with organic materials, on his own initiative, with his own resources and his own team.
After many years of hard work, Vlasman’s team succeeds in creating new life from cells taken from his own body. Under his supervision the world’s first living organism is built: OSCAR.
OSCAR is a prototype (the size of a human hand) consisting of clickable organ modules grown from human cells.
What makes OSCAR special is the thought process preceding the organism, which comes down to this: (human) life can be regarded as a closed system but when it is approached as a modular system this may lead to innovative applications and solutions.
In a closed system the parts are designed in such a way that they can only function in one specific configuration, which makes repairs and adaptations very complex. An example of such a closed system is the first Apple Macintosh from 1988.
In a modular system, independent modules – similar to building blocks – make up a transformable and therefore flexible configuration. In 2013, Dave Hakkens produced a Modular Phone that consists of separate parts that can be individually replaced and improved.
With the organism OSCAR Vlasman demonstrates that it is possible to create modular life. Stem cells can be reprogrammed, grown and printed as any type of human tissue. The line separating humans from machines is gradually becoming thinner.
The OSCAR prototype opens up possibilities for the human body, for example when it comes to replacing or improving worn out organs in a possibly ‘clickable’ system. Think of Lego as a metaphor.
In biotechnology many experiments are conducted nowadays with printed organs, regenerated tissue and synthetic blood. Organovo, one of the world’s largest biotech companies, expects to be able to print a functional liver by 2014. Taking the entire human body as a possibly modular system is not (or not yet) possible.
Vlasman develops the OSCAR organism – made up from ‘blocks’ – in his lab. This independent and somewhat obscure laboratory is run by a group of people with various expertise: IT specialists, biologists and designers, working with handmade and sometimes second-hand equipment. They operate outside of official channels, thereby avoiding moratoria, scientific protocols or objections of ethical committees, which perhaps enables them to arrive at this seminal breakthrough.
The primitive, vulnerable organism that finally results from Vlasman’s endeavours is kept alive with blood taken from Vlasman and is continually vaccinated against infections, as it has no immune system. The story refers to various similar narratives in world literature and film history, notably Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Jos de Mul, Michel Houellebecq’s tragic humanism. Lecture in the series Personhood, Law & Literature III organized by the Human Philosophy Project (Warsaw University & Oxford University). Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw. Room 4, roundfloor. April 7, 2016, 5-8 PM.
Various authors, including Friedrich Nietzsche and George Steiner, have argued that the tragic worldview, as we find it expressed in Greek tragedy, has become an entirely incomprehensible phenomenon for (post)modern man. The claim defended in this article radically opposes this view. It is argued that tragedy can still teach us something today, and maybe even more so now than in the many intervening centuries that separate us from her days of glory in the fifth century bce. The tragic reveals itself once more in (post)modern society, and nowhere more clearly than in technology, the domain in which we believed the tragic had been domesticated or even eliminated. Referring to the tragic humanism in Michel Houellebecq’s novels The Elementary Particles and The Possibility of an Island it is argued that it is precisely in (post)modern (bio)technologies that we experience the rebirth of the tragic.
Bruno Accarino, Jos de Mul und Hans-Peter Krüger (Hrsg.). Internationales Jahrbuch für Philosophische Anthropologie. Band 5 / International Yearbook for Philosophical Anthropology. Volume 5. O. Mitcherlich-Schönherrr & M. Schloßberger, (Hrsg.). Die Unergründlichkeit der menschlichen Natur. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015, 294 p.
Die Unergründlichkeit der menschlichen Natur ist ein Gemeinplatz der Philosophie: Irgendetwas an der Natur des Menschen entzieht sich beharrlich jedem philosophischen Zugriff: homo absconditus. Das Motiv findet sich in vielen philosophischen Traditionen, aber erst die recht gestellte Frage nach dem Wesen des Menschen ermöglicht ein volles Verständnis der Rede vom homo absconditus. Der Band versammelt Beiträge aus unterschiedlichen Traditionen und Schulen und bringt so die verschiedenen Zugriffe auf die Unergründlichkeit der menschlichen Natur ins Gespräch.
Bruno Accarino, Jos de Mul and Hans-Peter Krüger (Hrsg.). Internationales Jahrbuch für Philosophische Anthropologie. Band 4 / International Yearbook for Philosophical Anthropology. Volume 4. O. Mitcherlich-Schönherrr & M. Schloßberger, (Hrsg.). Das Glück des Glücks. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013/2014, 364 p.
Das Jahrbuch für Philosophische Anthropologie reflektiert interdisziplinäre Grenzübergänge zwischen den empirischen Disziplinen und ihren jeweiligen Anthropologien. Der diesjährige Band, »Das Glück des Glücks« fragt nach dem Verhältnis der subjektiven und der objektiven Dimensionen des Glücks. Dieses Verhältnis wird für die Themen »Glück haben«, »Glücklich sein«, »Das Glück suchen« und »Das Glück verfehlen« ausgelotet.
Jos de Mul. Database Identity: between construction and control. Invited lecture at the 1st Thinkers’ Summit of Translingual Communication on Life: Data, Symbol and Wisdom. Beijing: Department of Journalism and Communication. Beijing University, Jamuary 10-11, 2016.
Jos de Mul. Encyclopedias, hive minds and global brains. A cognitive evolutionary account of Wikipedia. Conference 'Reading Wikipedia', Trippenhuis Building KNAW, Kloveniersburgwal 29, Amsterdam, 23 november 2015.
International Academic Conference 'Reading Wikipedia'
10:00 - 17:00
One day academic conference in the KNAW on the occasion of the Erasmus Prize 2015 for the Wikipedia Community. Researchers, authors, activists and policy makers address topical issues around Wikipedia.
The Uniqueness of Wikipedia as a Platform
Keynote speech by José van Dijck, president KNAW (Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences).
Wikipedia and the Quest for Universal Knowledge
On the historical, cultural and philosophical aspects of Wikipedia. With Charles van den Heuvel, Jos de Mul, Sabine Niederer and Erinç Salor. Moderated by Frank van Vree.
Wikipedia as a Memory Institution. The Limits of the Open Model
On the role of knowledge institutions, freedom of information, public media and copyright. With Victoria Anderica, Phoebe Ayers, Christophe Depreter, Dimitar Dimitrov, Andres Guadamuz, Lucie Guibault, Bregtje van der Haak, Julia Reda and Heijo Ruijsenaars. Moderated by Paul Keller.
The Research Affordances of Wikipedia
On how Wikipedia itself can be a new source for academic research. With Fabian Flöck, Mark Graham, Brent Hecht, Ellen Rutten and Tommaso Venturini. Moderated by Richard Rogers.
Jointly organised by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, University of Amsterdam, European Cultural Foundation and Kennisland.
Entrance free of charge. Registration via KNAW.
Jos de Mul. The biotechnological sublime. Lecture at the Vrij Nederland Everything is algorithm session at the Brainwash Festival. Amsterdam, Agnietenkapel, 5PM, October 24, 2015.
Every once in a while we experience something extraordinary, something that lifts you above everyday reality . Such ‘awesome’ experiences might happen when we come across a magnificent landscape, hear a piece of music that really moves us, or when we fall deeply in love. Traditionally these kinds of extraordinary experiences are called “sublime”. In the following I will present some reflections on one particular kind of sublimity: the technological.
I will develop my argument in three parts. First I will point out the meaning and history of the concept of the sublime. Next, I will argue that in de twentieth century, the sublime has transformed from a natural to a technological category. In the third and last part I will defend the thesis that in the age of sublime algorithms, the sublime becomes a natural category again, which leaves us with some uncanny questions.