Ingarden’s Concept of the Relatively Isolated System and the Aesthetics of Biomimetic Virtual Forms

An Ingardenian systems aesthetics of architecture

Roman Ingarden and His Times: An International Phenomenological Conference 2018 • Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Kraków • October 27, 2018

ABSTRACT: As virtual reality technology becomes more sophisticated, there is growing recognition of the importance of Ingarden’s thought for the aesthetic analysis of architecture in virtual worlds. For example, his distinction between the ‘building’ that is constituted as an intentional object and its physical ontic foundation provides a useful tool for understanding virtual buildings, whose unique character results largely from their novel ontic basis. Moreover, it has been noted that Ingarden’s envisioning of future technologies for the ‘illusory embodiment’ of buildings in “O dziele architektury” §2 foresaw immersive VR technologies that are only now becoming feasible.

Here, however, we argue that a different aspect of Ingarden’s thought – the concept of the relatively isolated system – may hold even more promise as a tool for analyzing innovations in virtual architecture. We trace Ingarden’s development of this concept over three decades, from his description of the ‘organism’ as a hierarchical structural functional system (1937) to his model of the human being as a stable core with changing outer layers (ca. 1941), his analysis of Bertalanffy’s ‘open system’ model (1943), his notion of the ‘partially isolated system’ (1945-46), his description of the ‘relatively closed system’ (1950-54), and the mature concept of the ‘relatively isolated system’ developed in Über die Verantwortung: Ihre ontischen Fundamente (1968-70).

We then investigate the concept’s significance for virtual architecture. A growing trend is the use of computer-aided ‘form-finding’ techniques in which the shape of a building’s exterior ‘skin’ is not intentionally planned by a human architect but emerges organically through posthumanized processes of evolutionary computation; the resulting forms often display ‘Deleuzian’ curvilinear shapes resembling the bodies of biological organisms. In “O dziele architektury,” Ingarden had noted that in practice, human architecture never displays the organic irregularity and curvilinearity seen in living trees or in the ‘cities’ built by insects, because (1) functional considerations render such forms suboptimal for human inhabitation, and (2) human architects have been historically conditioned to believe that every building they design is ‘supposed to’ harmoniously concretize regular geometric shapes. However, Ingarden’s reasoning can be interpreted as anticipating precisely those radically irregular organic structures that are now becoming possible, as innovative AI technologies allow the task of form-finding to be separated from the anthropic intentional processes of a human architect and entrusted to non-human agents.

Moreover, such biomimetic design can be carried even further in virtual environments, whose looser constraints allow the construction (and aesthetic experiencing) of buildings whose forms would be impractical to fabricate in the ‘real’ world; such virtual surfaces can serve as sites of sensation and response that mediate between interior and exterior domains, reflecting the form and function of a living organism’s skin. We argue that Ingarden’s concept of the relatively isolated system provides a powerful framework for analyzing such virtual structures, thanks to its grounding in theoretical biology and its rich analysis of the outer ‘membrane’ that selectively shelters an entity’s inner workings from external causality. Such architectural applications represent another way in which Ingarden’s thought continues to bear new and unexpected fruit.

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A Phenomenological “Aesthetics of Isolation” as Environmental Aesthetics for an Era of Ubiquitous Art

The Polish Journal of Aesthetics 49 (2018), pp. 11-25; MNiSW 2016 List B: 12 points

ABSTRACT: Here the concept of the human being as a “relatively isolated system” developed in Ingarden’s later phenomenology is adapted into an “aesthetics of isolation” that complements conventional environmental aesthetics. Such an aesthetics of isolation is especially relevant, given the growing “aesthetic overload” brought about by ubiquitous computing and new forms of art and aesthetic experience such as those involving virtual reality, interactive online performance art, and artificial creativity.

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The Handbook of Information Security for Advanced Neuroprosthetics

ISBN 978-1-944373-09-2 • Second edition • Synthypnion Academic, 2017 • 324 pages

How does one ensure information security for a computer that is entangled with the structures and processes of a human brain – and for the human mind that is interconnected with such a device? The need to provide information security for neuroprosthetic devices grows more pressing as increasing numbers of people utilize therapeutic technologies such as cochlear implants, retinal prostheses, robotic prosthetic limbs, and deep brain stimulation devices. Moreover, emerging neuroprosthetic technologies for human enhancement are expected to increasingly transform their human users’ sensory, motor, and cognitive capacities in ways that generate new ‘posthumanized’ sociotechnological realities. In this context, it is essential not only to ensure the information security of such neuroprostheses themselves but – more importantly – to ensure the psychological and physical health, autonomy, and personal identity of the human beings whose cognitive processes are inextricably linked with such devices. InfoSec practitioners must not only guard against threats to the confidentiality and integrity of data stored within a neuroprosthetic device’s internal memory; they must also guard against threats to the confidentiality and integrity of thoughts, memories, and desires existing within the mind the of the device’s human host.

This second edition of The Handbook of Information Security for Advanced Neuroprosthetics updates the previous edition’s comprehensive investigation of these issues from both theoretical and practical perspectives. It provides an introduction to the current state of neuroprosthetics and expected future trends in the field, along with an introduction to fundamental principles of information security and an analysis of how they must be re-envisioned to address the unique challenges posed by advanced neuroprosthetics. A two-dimensional cognitional security framework is presented whose security goals are designed to protect a device’s human host in his or her roles as a sapient metavolitional agent, embodied embedded organism, and social and economic actor. Practical consideration is given to information security responsibilities and roles within an organizational context and to the application of preventive, detective, and corrective or compensating security controls to neuroprosthetic devices, their host-device systems, and the larger supersystems in which they operate. Finally, it is shown that while implantable neuroprostheses create new kinds of security vulnerabilities and risks, they may also serve to enhance the information security of some types of human hosts (such as those experiencing certain neurological conditions).

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Posthuman Management: Creating Effective Organizations in an Age of Social Robotics, Ubiquitous AI, Human Augmentation, and Virtual Worlds

ISBN 978-1-944373-05-4 • Second edition • Defragmenter Media, 2016 • 442 pages

What are the best practices for leading a workforce in which human employees have merged cognitively and physically with electronic information systems and work alongside social robots, artificial life-forms, and self-aware networks that are ‘colleagues’ rather than simply ‘tools’? How does one manage organizational structures and activities that span both actual and virtual worlds? How are the forces of technological posthumanization transforming the theory and practice of management?

This volume explores the reality that an organization’s workers, managers, customers, and other stakeholders increasingly comprise a complex network of human agents, artificial agents, and hybrid human-synthetic entities. The first part of the book develops the theoretical foundations of an emerging ‘organizational posthumanism’ and presents conceptual frameworks for understanding and managing the evolving workplace relationship between human and synthetic beings. Subsequent chapters investigate concrete management topics such as the likelihood that social robots might utilize charismatic authority to inspire and lead human workers; potential roles of AIs as managers of cross-cultural virtual teams; the ethics and legality of entrusting organizational decision-making to spatially diffuse robots that have no discernible identity or physical form; quantitative approaches to comparing the managerial capabilities of human and artificial agents; the creation of artificial life-forms that function as autonomous enterprises which evolve by competing against human businesses; neural implants as gateways that allow their human users to participate in new forms of organizational life; and the implications of advanced neuroprosthetics for information security and business model design.

As the first comprehensive application of posthumanist methodologies to the field of management, this volume will be of use to scholars and students of contemporary management and to management practitioners who must increasingly understand and guide the forces of technologization that are rapidly reshaping organizations’ form, dynamics, and societal roles.

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From Stand Alone Complexes to Memetic Warfare: Cultural Cybernetics and the Engineering of Posthuman Popular Culture

50 Shades of Popular Culture International Conference • Facta Ficta Research Centre, Kraków • February 19, 2016

ABSTRACT: Here we argue that five emerging social and technological trends are creating new possibilities for the instrumentalization (or even “weaponization”) of popular culture for commercial, ideological, political, or military ends and for the development of a posthuman popular culture that is no longer solely produced by or for “humanity” as presently understood. These five trends are the: 1) decentralization of the sources of popular culture, as reflected in the ability of ordinary users to create and upload content that “goes viral” within popular culture, as well as the use of “astroturfing” and paid “troll armies” by corporate or state actors to create the appearance of broad-based grassroots support for particular products, services, actions, or ideologies; 2) centralization of the mechanisms for accessing popular culture, as seen in the role of instruments like Google’s search engine, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Wikipedia in concentrating the distribution channels for cultural products, as well as efforts by state actors to censor social media content perceived as threatening or disruptive; 3) personalization of popular culture, as manifested in the growth of cultural products like computer games that dynamically reconfigure themselves in response to a player’s behavior, thereby creating a different product for each individual that is adapted to a user’s unique experiences, desires, and psychological characteristics; 4) automatization of the creation of products of popular culture, as seen in the automated high-speed generation of webpages, artwork, music, memes, and computer game content by AI systems that could potentially allow venues of popular culture (such as the Internet) to be flooded with content designed to influence a social group in particular ways; and 5) virtualization of the technological systems and mechanisms for creating, transmitting, and experiencing the products of popular culture, as witnessed in the development of all-purpose nodes (such as smartphones) that are capable of handling a full range of cultural products in the form of still images, video, audio, text, and interactive experiences, and the growing digitalization of cultural products that allows them to be more easily manipulated and injected into the popular culture of other states or social groups, bypassing physical and political barriers.

While these trends are expected to yield a broad range of positive and negative impacts, we focus on a particular subset of these impacts. Namely, we argue that the convergence of these five trends opens the door for the creation of popular culture that: 1) does not exist in any permanent, tangible physical artifacts but only as a collection of continuously transforming digital data that that is stored on the servers of a few powerful corporate or state actors and is subject to manipulation or degradation as a result of computer viruses, hacking, power outages, or other factors; 2) can be purposefully and effectively engineered using techniques commonly employed within IT management, electronics engineering, marketing, and other disciplines; 3) can become a new kind of weapon and battleground in struggles for military, political, ideological, and commercial superiority on the part of corporate, state, and other actors.

In order to stimulate thinking about ways in which these trends might develop, we conclude by considering two fictional near-future worlds – those depicted in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Transhuman Space: Toxic Memes – in which the further evolution of these five trends is shown as leading to the neurocybernetically facilitated manipulation of popular culture, “memetic warfare,” and related phenomena. We suggest that these fictional works represent examples of self-reflexive futurology: i.e., elements of contemporary popular culture that attempt to anticipate and explore the ways in which future popular culture could be purposefully engineered, instrumentalized, and even weaponized in the service of a diverse array of ends.

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Utopias and Dystopias as Cybernetic Information Systems: Envisioning the Posthuman Neuropolity

Creatio Fantastica no. 3(50) (2015)

ABSTRACT: While it is possible to understand utopias and dystopias as particular kinds of sociopolitical systems, in this text we argue that utopias and dystopias can also be understood as particular kinds of information systems in which data is received, stored, generated, processed, and transmitted by the minds of human beings that constitute the system’s ‘nodes’ and which are connected according to specific network topologies. We begin by formulating a model of cybernetic information-processing properties that characterize utopias and dystopias. It is then shown that the growing use of neuroprosthetic technologies for human enhancement is expected to radically reshape the ways in which human minds access, manipulate, and share information with one another; for example, such technologies may give rise to posthuman ‘neuropolities’ in which human minds can interact with their environment using new sensorimotor capacities, dwell within shared virtual cyberworlds, and link with one another to form new kinds of social organizations , including hive minds that utilize communal memory and decision-making. Drawing on our model, we argue that the dynamics of such neuropolities will allow (or perhaps even impel) the creation of new kinds of utopias and dystopias that were previously impossible to realize. Finally, we suggest that it is important that humanity begin thoughtfully exploring the ethical, social, and political implications of realizing such technologically enabled societies by studying neuropolities in a place where they have already been ‘pre-engineered’ and provisionally exist: in works of audiovisual science fiction such as films, television series, and role-playing games.

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Tachikomatic Domains: Utopian Cyberspace as a ‘Contingent Heaven’ for Humans, Robots, and Hybrid Intelligences

Tachikomatic Domains

His Master’s Voice: Utopias and Dystopias in Audiovisual Culture • Facta Ficta Research Centre, Kraków • March 24, 2015

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The Artificial Life-Form as Entrepreneur: Synthetic Organism-Enterprises and the Reconceptualization of Business

In Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems, edited by Hiroki Sayama, John Rieffel, Sebastian Risi, René Doursat and Hod Lipson, pp. 417-18 • Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014

ABSTRACT: In this work we demonstrate the theoretical possibility and explore the implications of developing artificial life that functions as an autonomous business within the real-world human economy. By drawing on the Viable Systems Approach (VSA), we introduce the new concept of an “organism-enterprise” that exists simultaneously as both a life-form and a business. We then reconceptualize the anthropocentric understanding of a “business” in a way that allows an artificial life-form to constitute a “synthetic” organism-enterprise (SOE) just as a human being functioning as a sole proprietor constitutes a “natural” organism-enterprise. Practical obstacles to the creation of SOEs are considered, along with possible means of surmounting them. SOEs would move a step beyond current examples of artificial life that produce goods or services within a simulated world or play a limited role within a human business: rather than competing against artificial organisms in a virtual world, SOEs could evolve through competition against human businesses in the real-world economy. We consider concrete examples of SOEs and conclude by highlighting legal, economic, and ethical issues that arise when a single economic ecosystem is shared by competing human and artificial life. The concept of an “organism-enterprise.” A business is defined as “the organized effort … to produce and sell, for a profit, the goods and services that satisfy society’s needs” (Pride, et al. 2014). Management theorists have drawn on biology to better understand the structure and function of such business organizations. Our research utilizes a systems theory grounded in neurophysiology, the Viable Systems Approach (VSA), that allows us to understand a business as an autopoietic organism or “system” that dwells within the ecosystem of a larger economy or “suprasystem” (Beer, 1981; Barile, et al. 2012). Within this ecosystem, a business must compete against other organisms for limited resources and adapt to environmental demands. In our human economy, individual businesses are born, grow, and die, and taken as a whole, this array of businesses forms an evolvable system.

We begin by considering one unique instance in which a business is not simply “analogous to” a living organism, but identical to it: namely, the case of a human being who functions as a sole proprietor. In this situation, a single system simultaneously satisfies all the requirements of being both a life-form and a business. Building on this case, we introduce the idea of a unitary “organism-enterprise,” a concept that is already instantiated in the form of at least 20 million “human organism-enterprises” within the United States alone. Reconceptualizing business to include synthetic organism-enterprises. Utilizing VSA and the concept of an organism-enterprise, we analyze the traditional anthropocentric understanding of business as an exclusively human activity to consider whether an artificial life-form could serve as a “synthetic organism-enterprise” (SOE) that is both a life-form and a business. We show that this is indeed possible, but requires us to transform our understanding of business. For example, human businesses are traditionally described as requiring four kinds of resources: 1) human; 2) material; 3) financial; and 4) information. To replace this anthropocentric understanding, we propose that a business be understood more generally as requiring: 1) agent resources; 2) material resources; 3) value-storing media; and 4) information. Similarly, a human business requires functional units filling roles in production, finance, marketing, human capital management, and information technology.

Drawing on VSA and the case of a human sole proprietor, we consider the ways in which these functions can be understood more generically, in such a way that they can also be performed by current and proposed forms of artificial life. We give particular attention to the role of “profit” in a human business and formulate an account of its correlate for an SOE: it is the difference between resources expended and received in exchanges in the suprasystem that provides an SOE with a potential for growth and insurance against environmental uncertainties. Figure 1 provides an overview of our reconceptualized “business process cycle,” which can be carried out equally well by either a human business or an artificial life-form that has been designed or evolved to fill a business role within a larger economic ecosystem.

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