Circuits of Cognitive Automaton

Presentation by Ayhan Aytes (UC San Diego).

In the history of the automation of intelligence, the concept of the automated chess-player frequently appears as a metaphor, abstract machine, behavioral prototype or a thought experiment. In almost every conceptual implementation of the chess-playing machine, from the essays of Edgar Alan Poe to Claude Shannon’s computer models, there is a reference to its archetype, the 18th century chess-playing automaton invented by Austrian engineer Wolfgang von Kempelen. The Enlightenment chess automaton depicted a puppet dressed as an Ottoman subject who played chess on behalf of the machine, although it was controlled by a chess-master hidden inside the cabinet. I argue that this particular human-machine circuitry embodies the irreconcilable contradictions of the Enlightenment’s ideological presumptions, which become crucially active in later industrial and postindustrial network formations, such as the cybernetic apparatus of the 20th Century and, the digitally distributed cognitive labor platforms of the early 21st Century. I examine this history in relation to a long-term cultural dialectic between the rise of intelligent automata and the rise of discourses of Orientalism in the west.

Ayhan Aytes is a PhD candidate in Communication and Cognitive Science at UC San Diego.

Ayhan Aytes presents at the "Network Archaeology" conference.

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