This is column number nine in the series. We take as our theme the recent movie “The Matrix.” The Matrix is a cinematic exercise in virtual reality and virtual logic. It is not necessary to have seen the film to read this essay. The Matrix is all around you. It is in the air you breathe, in the ground you walk on, in the sights you see and in the feelings that you feel. You yourself are composed of it just as much as it is composed of you. You imagine yourself to be an observer independent of the Matrix, but the very possibility of your observation, your sense of Self and World is produced by the Matrix.
Kenny V. (2009) “There’s Nothing Like the Real Thing”. Revisiting the Need for a Third-Order Cybernetics. Constructivist Foundations 4(2): 100–111. https://constructivist.info/4/2/100
Purpose: To argue for the need to generate a third-order cybernetics to deal with the problematics of second-order cybernetics. Problem: The recent exponential increase in the use of the internet and other “media” to influence and shape dominant cultural experiences via “virtual reality” exploits a core facility of human psychology - that of being able to accept “substitutions” for the “Real Thing.” In this paper, I want to raise some basic questions and dilemmas for our living in the space of a third-order contextualisation that uses “virtuality” in an ever-increasing manner for the configuring and homogenisation of human experiences. In doing so, I also raise the question of the need for us to develop an adequate model of a “third-order cybernetics” for dealing with the ways in which human experience is contextualised and configured by phenomena that constitute the third-order system. Solution: Ernst von Glasersfeld’s work makes it clear that psychologists and others enter into a great deal of confusion when they use terms like “self,” “consciousness,” “emotions,” “memory,” “the environment,” and even “experience,” because, as he points out, there is no convincing model for any of these commonly taken-for-granted phenomena of human living. His writings are taken as a unique source for the generation of an effective third-order cybernetics where the need for constant self-critical monitoring in regard to psychological praxis and third-order phenomena may take place. “Self-critical monitoring” means, in the first place, monitoring in a critical manner our tendencies to take for granted the notion of “self.” One of the main problematics to deal with in second-order cybernetics is the way that “subjectivity” is taken for granted. Benefits: The temptation to collapse back down from a second-order cybernetics to first-order cybernetics will be resolved by creating an effective platform for third-order cybernetics that problematises the issue of “subjectivity” of the observer in the second-order cybernetics framework. This involves putting into question many of the common assumptions held about “who” it is that makes the observations at the second-order cybernetics. In other words, I attempt to highlight what is problematic regarding the observer’s subjectivity and how this analysis of what is taken for granted by the second-order cybernetics framework creates the basis of a framework for a third-order cybernetics.
This article questions the belief that the IT revolution enhances human cognitive development. Starting with a brief description of an alarming tendency observed over the past quarter century, I will identify two major methodological pitfalls of modern education responsible for a profound lack of understanding of the nature and role of language as human ecology on the one hand, and information and information technologies as part of this ecology, on the other; this lack of understanding accounts for the steady decline in the development of young intellects in the information era. To curb this developmental regress, we must change the perspective both on language and information by using a systems approach to humans as linguistic organisms. Such an approach involves identification of the biological function of language as a cognitive-semiotic ability to take into account what is not perceptually present and its relation to sapience. It is argued that this ability (operations on first-order abstractions) is the biological (neurophysiological) basis for abstract thought which is further radically enhanced with the advent of writing (operations on second-order abstractions). The cognitive dynamics of reading and writing reconstruct language as a cognitive domain of interactions, giving rise to a new way of thinking based on the experience of interpreting inscriptions. IT-generated virtual reality deprives young individuals of the essential formative experience of operations on second-order abstractions, impeding their cognitive development.
Purpose: To consider the implications of the operation of the nervous system – and of the constitution of cultures as closed networks of languaging and emotioning – for how we understand and generate so-called “virtual realities.” Findings: The nervous system is a detector of configurations within itself and thus cannot represent reality. The distinction between virtual and non-virtual realities does not apply to the operation of the nervous system; rather it pertains to the operation of the observer as a languaging being. Our human existence has changed as virtual realities have become non-virtual through their systemic cultural inclusion in the realization of our biological human manner of living. Implications: Virtual realities are never trivial, because we always become transformed as we live them according to the emotioning of the psychic space that they bring about in our living, and this is so regardless of whether we like it or not.
In this paper, we evaluate the pragmatic turn towards embodied, enactive thinking in cognitive science, in the context of recent empirical research on the memory palace technique. The memory palace is a powerful method for remembering yet it faces two problems. First, cognitive scientists are currently unable to clarify its efficacy. Second, the technique faces significant practical challenges to its users. Virtual reality devices are sometimes presented as a way to solve these practical challenges, but currently fall short of delivering on that promise. We address both issues in this paper. First, we argue that an embodied, enactive approach to memory can better help us understand the effectiveness of the memory palace. Second, we present design recommendations for a virtual memory palace. Our theoretical proposal and design recommendations contribute to solving both problems and provide reasons for preferring an embodied, enactive account over an information-processing treatment of the memory palace.
Excerpt: Is Josef Mitterer’s non-dualizing philosophy yet another philosophical flavor, of which there are so many in the academic world? Yet another philosophical trinket that arouses the short-lived attention of some people and disappears quickly thereafter? Yet another dalliance without implications either for philosophy or for science? We are convinced of the contrary. For many years Mitterer has steadily built up a reputation as an innovative but at the same time also very careful thinker. His claims have been discussed in various circles, but, unfortunately, this has so far happened in German- and Polish-speaking countries only. Meanwhile “take your time” has taken time and Mitterer celebrated his 60th birthday in July 2008, an opportunity we used to gather connoisseurs of his work to discuss, for the first time in the English language, his achievements and impact. The result is in no relation to the limited spread of his ideas so far. We have collected some 22 contributions covering a large variety of intellectual terrain and pointing out the potential impact of his philosophy from now on.
Rocha V., Brandao L., Nogueira Y., Cavalcante-Neto J. & Vidal C. (2021) Autonomous foraging of virtual characters with a constructivist cognitive architecture. In: Proceedings of the Symposium on Virtual and Augmented Reality (SVR’21). Association for Computing Machinery. New York, NY: 101–110.
Immersive experiences in virtual reality simulations require natural-looking virtual characters. Autonomy researchers argue that only the agent’s own experience can model their behavior. In this regard, the Constitutive Autonomy through Self-programming Hypothesis (CASH) is an effective approach to implement this model. In this paper, we contribute to the discussion of CASH within dynamic and continuous environments by developing mechanisms of memory decay, contradiction penalty, and relative valence. Such improvements aim to see how the agent might continuously reevaluate their learned schemas. The results show that our agents were able to develop autonomously into performing plausible behaviors, despite the changing environment.
Westerhoff J. (2016) What it means to live in a virtual world generated by our brain. Erkenntnis 81(3): 507–528. https://cepa.info/7921
Recent discussions in cognitive science and the philosophy of mind have defended a theory according to which we live in a virtual world akin to a computer simulation, generated by our brain. It is argued that our brain creates a model world from a variety of stimuli; this model is perceived as if it was external and perception-independent, even though it is neither of the two. The view of the mind, brain, and world, entailed by this theory (here called “virtual world theory”) has some peculiar consequences which have rarely been explored in detail. This paper sets out virtual world theory (1. 1) and relates it to various central philosophical problems (indirect realism (1. 2), the role of the perceiver (1. 3) and the problem of the existence of the external world (1. 4)). The second part suggests three interpretations of virtual world theory, two familiar ones (a strong and a weak one, 2. 1) and a somewhat less familiar one (the irrealist interpretation, 2. 2). The remainder of the paper argues that the irrealist interpretation is the one we should adopt (2. 3–2. 6).