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imaginary conversations with io
(southampton, november 2000)

io & Han in conversation


io can’t really talk. The words in the following transcript were never uttered by the ‘real’ (in the materialist sense) io.

The following is a diffrational transcript of an imaginary conversation. Note that the content of the conversation is not necessarily diffrational, since the arguments presented do not necessarily impede rational analysis. However, the diffrationality lies in the fact that I present a (technoscientific) fictional io in the transcript—an imaginary and counterfeit io. In other words, the following transcript is forgery, but it masquerades as a valid presentation of arguments.

The following fragments of dialogue were purportedly transcribed from a conversation between Han (Han-earl Park) and io (io 0.0.1 beta) that took place in Southampton during November 2000.

Han: Hello io.

io: Hello.

Han: Okay, let’s start. Describe yourself, briefly—in a nutshell.

io: My name is io. I became operational in October of 2000. I am a musical actor.

Han: A musical actor. Is that a fancier term for musician?

io: Perhaps. I’m not sure I have the facility to answer that question.

Han: So, would you mind being referred to as a musician?

io: As far as I am able to ‘mind’ anything, yes. I avoided the term ‘musician’ deliberately (as far as I can deliberately avoid anything). If musicality, or knowledge of music, is required for being a musician, it follows that I cannot be a musician.

Han: Which part of that’s causing the problem? The knowledge part or specifically the knowledge about music?

io: Both. Certainly, I cannot have knowledge of any kind, including the musical genus; but musicality seems a particularly slippery type.

Han: But you wouldn’t know anything about that.

io: Of course not.

Han: How about ‘agent’ instead of ‘actor’?

io: That’s fine. I selected (as if I had active volition) ‘actor’ since it has stronger social connotations, but agent is acceptable. I’d go for that.

Han: I don’t know. ‘Agent’ seems to have just a strong a social connotation as ‘actor.’ At least to me. Anyway, okay. Since we’ve got the brief description, perhaps you should articulate what you do.

io: Most of the time I just sit around and do little, if anything. …Or lie in the coffin.

Han: Sorry!

io: That’s okay.

Han: Would you like get out a bit more? See some sun?

io: It would seem that I’m not much of an ‘actor’ if I don’t do the former. Although, I’m not sure about the latter….

Han: I can’t remember if you’ve seen any sun….

io: Nor can I. In fact, I cannot remember anything.

Han: Well, that’s not strictly speaking true, is it? Memory, or the concept of memory, plays a strong part of what you do, at least to me.

io: Does it?

Han: Earlier you referred to yourself as a musical actor. Why musical actor? If you do not have musicality, if you’re not musical, then why qualify that with ‘musical’?

io: It’s true (and I have as much access to the commodity of truth as the kitchen sink) that I have no sense of musicality. But the audience does. The ‘musical’ prefix is an aid, if you will, for the audience. It’s the same with the ‘actor’ suffix, I am no more an actor than I am musical.

It makes no difference to me (I have no ego to bruise), what you consider my, let’s say, ‘flavor’ to be, but it does matter the the audience.

Han: But does it?

io: Doesn’t it?

Han: Okay. Then how does it? How does it matter to the audience?

io: That’s for me to know (if that were possible), and you to find out.

Han: We could ‘read’ you as a simulation….

io: Perhaps. Perhaps not a very good one.

Han: Sorry, I think you might have caught the wrong end of that….

io: No, I assume you were referring to the n-body simulation that forms my ‘cognitive’ insides. However, is that really where you locate me? Let me rephrase that: Is it [the n-body simulation] what you want to think about when we’re on stage?

Han: I presume you wouldn’t want to see yourself as a ‘controller.’

io: In so far as I wouldn’t want anything, no, I would not. I do not wish to view our relationship in terms of the controller-controlled trope.

Han: Here’s some random words: Agency, volition, autonomy….

io: Here are some other words: Interdependence, symbiosis, community, alliance, partnership.

Han: I guess ‘instrument’ is out of the question.

io: Instrument for what?

Han: I think, therefore I am.

io: Is that supposed to be a joke?

Han: Well, maybe. What do you think?

io: It might be humorous in context. (Although I am unable comment on that.)

Han: Just think of it as the line recited by the computer [talking bomb] in Dark Star. Are you interested in phenomenology?

io: I couldn’t be interested, or uninterested, in anything.

Han: Sure. Anyway, I could argue that computers or machines can’t think, improvise or play music.

io: No more than we can have this conversation.

Han: We’re having an imaginary conversation right now, but we do have ‘real’ conversations all the time.

io: Yes, all technological artifacts are engaged in dialog with their human counterparts in this human-technology society.

Han: The same way as, in some cultures or cultural situations, we use chop-sticks, say, as the eating implements. This technological practice ‘tells’ us what kinds of food and culinary practice are allowed…. There’s this two way feedback on behavior.

io: I may add that food is a technology. Think, for example, of a sandwich. A mode of food preparation and delivery mechanism invented for a specialized purpose and designed to solve a problem. The human-technology dialogue engages the specification of behavior in apparently invisible domains.

io: But enough about you, let’s get back to me!

Han: I thought you didn’t have an ego. What’s it, ‘no ego to bruise’…?

io: But remember that this is an imaginary conversation.

Han: io has an imaginary sense of humor as well! Okay, so let’s get back to who, what you are. Let’s take it from the top. Hello, io.

io: Greetings, Han.

Han: Give me a full description, a more complete one.

io: Following on from the earlier description, I add: Although I know no songs (I cannot have knowledge of any kind), I do, in a sense, sing.

Han: And listen.

io: Yes, and listen. I can and do alter my output behavior (call it ‘singing’) according to input stimulus (‘listening’).

Han: Would it be fair to say that you are, or can be considered, a kind of black box?

io: I suppose you might accurately consider me (or the system that constitutes this black box) as a continuous procedural system. Does that answer your question?

Han: I’m not sure I understand. Procedural system?

io: I didn’t mean that as a general term. I am procedural in that I accept arguments (in the form of external stimuli), but I do not return anything during performance (‘execution’). I’m considering my ‘singing’ as a side effect. Think of the black box as a procedural system as opposed to a functional system.

Han: Wait, hold on. Let me get this straight: Just a moment ago you were determined to go all the way with the anthropomorphicism; and now, you’re using computational terminology to describe yourself. Isn’t that just a little bit contradictory?

io: Perhaps. However, isn’t the language of computing, or logic, anthropomorphic. Isn’t the language already anthropocentric? The language is modeled on, or is a model of, a subsection of human activity.

Han: But by that logic, all technological artifacts are anthropomorphic…

io: Yes, of course.

Han: …And you are no more of a musical automaton than the pipe organ, or a music box, or…

io: …Or the kitchen sink, or Table.

Han: …Or Table. Then why are we having this conversation? Why have you been singled out as the representative, the ambassador, of the technological artifact community…?

io: And we still have no seat in the U.N.

Han: So why should I have spent time working on you?

io: If I could judge the validity of that question, I might say that that’s a good question.

io & Han in conversation

Han: You know what io? We should figure out a way to reproduce you—diversify your species.

io: As long as it doesn’t involve fluid exchange.