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Nescience as a mode of hypercomputing?


Imagining Order as Hypercomputing (Part #7)


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The theme of this argument is further clarified by the title of the above-mentioned article by Michael Brooks on Turing's Oracle as it appeared in the New Scientist in the print version -- in its contrast with the online variant cited above. In the print version the title given is Know It All (19 July pp. 34-37). As subtitle it has: Can we realise Alan Turing's dream of a computer that always has an answer?

It could usefully be said that the last thing needed is a computer which knows it all, thereby engendering a condition of total dependency -- reminiscent of Big Brother, problematic parenting, or tutorial guidance. This reservation also applies to the subtitle. Missing from both is a sense of the nature of (not) knowing and the insightful paradox appropriate to the answer of any fundamentally complex question -- as with the provocative engagement implied by a Zen koan.

At a time when the focus is on increasing speed, saving time, and on time as a scarce resource, it is appropriate to imagine that hypercomputing might not necessarily operate in a "go go" mode -- all the time. It might even function in a mode suggesting an adaptation of Abraham Lincoln's classic quote:

You can answer all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot answer all the people all the time.

As imagined by Douglas Adams, in answer to the question asked of it by the pan-galactic aliens, Deep Thought devoted seven and a half million years of calculation to the matter (before furnishing the answer of 42). With respect to hypercomputing, "calculation" may be misleading -- given the emphasis here on imagining order. More appropriately, some languages translate "computer" to highlight the ordering function (French, ordinateur; Spanish, ordenador).

More interesting may be the sense in which hypercomputing is dependent on a fallow period (characteristic of crop rotation cycles) -- much cited as a metaphor with respect to many forms of creativity. In agriculture, a field is left for a period without being sown in order to restore its fertility or to avoid surplus production. As noted by Wikipedia:

In Europe, since the times of Charlemagne, there was a transition from a two-field crop rotation to a three-field crop rotation. Under a two-field rotation, half the land was planted in a year, while the other half lay fallow. Then, in the next year, the two fields were reversed. Under three-field rotation, the land was divided into three parts. One section was planted in the autumn with winter wheat or rye. The next spring, the second field was planted with other crops such as peas, lentils, or beans and the third field was left fallow. The three fields were rotated in this manner so that every three years, a field would rest and be fallow.

The fallow period could be imagined as a mode of "not-knowing" or "nescience", as discussed separately (Nescience and ignorance, 2014). This could suggest that the processes of a "University of Ignorance" could be imagined as intimately related to those of hypercomputing (see University of Ignorance: engaging with nothing, the unknown, the incomprehensible, and the unsaid, 2013). The mode might well be characterized by silence -- as with Deep Thought's refusal to provide an answer for millions of years. The essence of civilization might be understood in such terms (Civilization as a Global Configuration of Silences: recognizing silence of a higher order, 2013).

In a context of hypercomputing, the conventional sense of question and answer could well be called into question (Am I Question or Answer? Problem or (re)solution? 2006). Nescience is then a form of imaginative engagement with the form of the question -- "mulling over" the order it implies. That mode requires creative consideration of the form of any answer -- the order through which it might be presented. It could include self-reflexive consideration of the nature of hyercomputing itself -- hypercomputing in "selfie mode".

Especially intriguing is the sense in which hypercomputing could be considered as a pattern of "catastrophic questions", as potentially implied by catastrophe theory (Conformality of 7 WH-questions to 7 Elementary Catastrophes: an exploration of potential psychosocial implications, 2006). Consideration of catastrophe is consistent with the sense in which hypercomputing involves "re-cognition" and imagining order which are in some respects catastrophic for hypercomputing itself. This is indicative of the sense in which it is a process "on the edge" of its own annihilation, as separately discussed with respect to more conventional structures (World Futures Conference as Catastrophic Question: from performance to morphogenesis and transformation, 2013).

Hypercomputing might then be considered in terms of staring into a "hole in reality" (Existential implications -- of a "hole" in conventional reality? 2012) -- potentially as an underlying cognitive reality (Unthought as Cognitive Foundation of Global Civilization, 2012). This could relate to the existential problem of terror and the implication of any "words fear" in engaging with alternatives (Thinking in Terror, 2005). With problems potentially understood as an existential challenge, Lincoln's quote could also be fruitfully adapted as:

You can challenge all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot challenge all the people all the time.

The case for eliciting a nescientific perspective has been admirably made by the poet John Keats with respect to Negative Capability:

... it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously -- I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason... (1817)

As noted by Wikipedia, the term describes the capacity of human beings to transcend and revise their contexts. It has been used by poets and philosophers to describe the ability of the individual to perceive, think, and operate beyond any presupposition of a predetermined capacity of the human being. It further captures the rejection of the constraints of any context, and the ability to experience phenomena free from epistemological bounds, as well as to assert one's own will and individuality upon their activity.


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