How to speak to a computer

“everybody In computers has deeper motivations and interior twists that form his own special ties to these machines; and when It comes to our choices of fantasy machines, obviously an even deeper level of psychic imprint la projecting Itself Into the world.”

Latour, in his critique of scientific objectivity, argues that a large majority of science is simply problem solving.  Without a problem to be solved, there is no scientific work to be done.  Nelson’s computer dreams made me reflect on this idea based on the degree of whimsy he describes the computer engineers to be acting on. This is to ask what is the result if we look at computing the same way Sir Edmund Hilary looked at Everest?  Is “because its there”  a good enough reason to create and deploy these untested visions?


In this light, I see a strange world of computer science, one that is funded to build better bombs and police state control, but is staffed by human dreamers who wish to make their imagination a reality.

Nelson’s advice is to

“sort out the dreams and put them on hangers so you can try them on, and maybe choose an ensemble for yourself.”

I wonder if this self reflectivity is far enough or even explains the complexity of the tensions between the visions of these technologies and their realities.  Instead, when I observe the backlash (In Europe) over GMO’s and early fears over bioengineering I see a conflict between un-involved publics and those who hold the keys to the direction of future technologies.


As an aside, I see an interesting divergence of Nelson’s critique on the future of information retrieval.  Although it is true that Google search would fail to answer his question  “What did Hegel say about determinism”, folks wanting to know the answer would use different inputs they would feel would deliver better results like “Hegel” “Determinism” “early works” “counter argument”. In a way, we have learned to speak like a computer program to maximize the output.