anthr_of_comp12 - 21A.350 SP.484J STS.086 The Anthropology...

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The Anthropology of Computing Fall 2004 MIT Today, we want to conclude by thinking about the future of computing — and I’ve chosen a piece about biocomputing, “the use of biological components and processes toward nonbiological, computational ends,” to get us thinking. Biocomputing works on the promise and premise of transporting computing from the medium of microelectronics into the medium of the organic, with potential ramifications for how we define COMPUTING itself. Let me put some of this in the frame of the class. We began this course by recognizing that COMPUTERS used to be people; COMPUTING was something PEOPLE did. Let me take you on a trip down memory lane — showing you some overheads that will remind you, a la Vannevar Bush’s MEMEX machine, of the associations we made this semester. Beginning with Pascal, gathering steam with Babbage, COMPUTING became something done by DEVICES, MACHINES — variously mechanical and electronic. So, the meaning of COMPUTING changed to being something machinic . We saw, too, how the meaning of INTELLIGENCE changed. Babbage. And INFORMATION, too. Wiener. an interlude on language, then. How did these transformations in meaning happen? METAPHOR: transfer of meaning from one domain to another 1. A figure of speech in which a name or descriptive word or phrase is transferred to an object or action ± different from, but analogous to, that to which it is ± literally applicable ± COMPUTING, INTELLIGENCE, and INFORMATION were terms that were metaphorically extended to the ways we think about calculative machinery. Thing is, they’ve become so common sense that we now think of them as literal. They are what literary scholars call DEAD METAPHORS. DEAD LITERAL. e.g. I don’t have enough time. Part of the project of anthropology and of cultural analysis more generally is to poke at dead metaphors, to tell the history of how they became literal. METAPHORS in computing have CHANGED what we mean by intelligence,
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This note was uploaded on 11/09/2011 for the course ARCH 4.401 taught by Professor Utemetabauer during the Fall '06 term at MIT.

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anthr_of_comp12 - 21A.350 SP.484J STS.086 The Anthropology...

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