To keep a diary is to court externality. The world enters our bodies as event and perception. In writing a diary we grasp what happened to us, through emotion, thought and memory, and give those inner blooms an external existence on the page. Yesterday’s encounter with a stranger re-emerges in ink: but focused, considered, in some way understood.
Diaries and the new generations of biometric monitor share unlikely kinship. Both read the mind’s movements; both take the heart’s temperature. Children – girls especially – are encouraged to chronicle their days in a journal. Some entries are addressed to the diary itself, as if self-revelation were a dialogue with the mute page. Experience is made to speak. The child listens to herself.
Hand the child a calculator, and we may take away her need, perhaps even her desire, to walk a mental path through the queer, abstract forest of numerical symbols. 3 x 4 = 12
becomes an operation for the fingers alone, a simple task of data entry. The computation is carried out by the machine. In days to come, we may give the child a biometric monitor – they come in child sizes – and let her grow up with it. But will we change how she interprets the racing of her heart? For she may choose to push a button to read her state of mind, to tell her what it is she feels.
When I speak with you, I speak with a world; I speak with an ecology. Within that space of recognition, talking together is as sensual an experience as venturing into places one’s never been before: an undiscovered country, and a deeply human country.
When we talk with an artificial intelligence in the not-too-distant future, we may discover new realms beyond the human – new cognitive and even emotional places, made possible by maths and abstraction. We may forget that the voice was first compiled from a panoply of once-recorded humanness: the externalised, discretised, digitised, optimised expressions of the living.
A machine may be changed by its interaction with us – by definition, machine learning learns
by processing – but what it takes from us is data, not experience. The complex of emotion, perception, memory and thought that we know as ‘experience’ remains, for now, the preserve of those living in the flesh. The intertwining of two people in an intimate dialogue is a coupling of experience with experience to make a greater than
Discretisation, optimisation and control: the world of AI is a mathematician’s delight. Take a stream of information with an undetermined number of attributes, mirroring the rich sensory modes of our perception. AI applies a complex analysis to the stream. It comes up with a set of factors that can each be controlled – that is, turned on or off – based on the optimal ‘weight’, or ‘cost’, of each on/off decision.