UC San Diego
The "Other" in the machine : oriental automata and the mechanization of the mind
- Author(s): Ayteș, Ayhan
- et al.
This dissertation project is a media archaeological inquiry into a long-term cultural dialectic between the rise of intelligent automata and the rise of Western discourses of Orientalism. I organize my analysis around the archetypal theme of the chess-playing machine, the Mechanical Turk, which has played many significant roles as a metaphor, as an abstract machine, as a behavioral prototype and as a thought experiment throughout the history of the mechanization of the mind. In almost every implementation of the chess-playing automaton as a conceptual device-- from the essays of Edgar Alan Poe to Claude Shannon's computer models--there is a direct 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 performed the role of the chess-player on behalf of the machine while secretly it was controlled by a chess-master hidden inside the cabinet. This intricate artifice designed into the chess-playing automaton is probably one of the reasons why it stayed relevant in explaining the human-machine symbiosis throughout the modern and industrial eras. This might also explain why the chess automaton became so readily applicable as a conceptual apparatus throughout the history of the mechanization of the mind. My initial approach, borne out in the following chapters, is to show how that this particular human-machine configuration can be seen as the physical embodiment of the irreconcilable contradictions of the Enlightenment's ideological presumptions. Through the historical analysis of this configuration, I particularly aim to investigate the interaction between the cultural "Other" as a systematic epistemological design and the technological "Other" of the European mind. These converge in the archetypal apparatus of the mechanized mind concept, which, as I will argue, become crucially active in later industrial and postindustrial configurations such as the cybernetic apparatus of the 20th Century and the contemporary distributed cognitive labor platforms of the early 21st Century