I got a link to this on the ARTNEWS listserv and what follows are some thoughts I have about the matter as well as most of the email I sent in reply to the list (I hope they don't mind that I write so much on there sometimes). Thanks Eggtoof and Al Matthews!
Here is the original link that I followed. Little did I suspect what waited for me. I then began watching the video (here).
This has to be one of the best hoaxes I've seen. They spent a lot of time putting all this together, and I think it looks great. I thought that it must be one of those YesMen or RTmark projects, but, sigh, it won't.
I do find it really humorous this idea that the reality of the mind, which maps the reality "out there" has finally been solved (and it was done in 1974!), and they didn't bother to entertain any notion of an epistemology where the knower and the known are mutually transformed by one another.
I think that's what's really crucial for AI: how do we develop code that gives networked machines the same kind of understanding that Olympic diving judges have? What I mean is this, the only way for the judges to know how to judge the olympian is to have learned how to dive and perform the moves that the divers perform every four years. While this is clearly a private knowledge (because it is embodied within the individual), this expert knowledge is actually quite public because (as we see with the Olympics) judges tend to judge fairly consistently, even when they don't consult one another.
If you go to the site initsimage.org you find that this is a nonprofit dedicated to life-extension by downloading your consciousness (which they say is who you really are) into a matrix of computers.
Here's the best part:
"Although the attainment of immortality may be a generation or two away, its plausibility may be made loud and clear in the present. In the meantime, the road to such a goal is ripe with philosophical and even spiritual repercussions. That's why we have claimed the status of a church. Although we have no burning bushes to our credit, we do offer a fairly divine revelation that pure rationality can lead to eternal life, along with the recognition of a cosmic mind based upon the same neural network paradigm that will inevitably free us from the agony of death."
Never mind that the music that this machine makes is simply loops form Apple's GarageBand which comes free with the purchase of a new Mac. I mean, maybe they used some equation to select the loops, but I kinda doubt that.
Oh well. I'm not saying that life-extension is a bad thing, necessarily. I read Neuropolitique when I was a younger man. I am saying, however, that it should be a crime to use the phrase "the zen of ____" in a sales pitch for transcendentalism (in the video explaining the music-making ability of their machine they say the machine understands the zen of music making).
I guess it's just, perhaps in the words of another early hero of mine, Robert Anton Wilson, "uncool" to create a religion out of rationality (although I will make an allowance for those that would create a religion with the purpose of illuminating those that convert) Isn't that the problem in the first place? in the late 19th century Weber was already warning us about the iron cage of irrationality and the fundamental irrationality of rationality.