Theoids, Androids and Clonoids

Essay by Detlef Linke for "TechnoMorphica," 1997.

Theoids, Androids and Clonoids

TechnoMorphica 1997


We already live in the Brave New World, and from an ethical viewpoint it could be dangerous to keep on saying "We should not cross the boundaries," when as a matter of fact these boundaries have already been crossed. Such a figure of speech could seduce us into not adequately observing the changed reality. By adopting the boundary as a metaphor we would slip back into a way of thinking that stabilizes the individual, denies the alterity and refuses to reconcile itself to death and transience. This way of thinking will only accelerate the progress it originally wanted to keep within bounds. That is why it seems important to me to be on the look-out in that Brave New World - in which we already live anyway - for suitable ways of behaving and, if possible, to describe them in ethical formulations. It now seems certain that the gene-technology revolution will bring new forms of organisms and intelligence into this world. And it only seems proper to anticipate the matching forms of behavior. It will however not be easy to develop - as for the Animal Liberation Movement - the corresponding freedom, tolerance and interaction concepts for the Machine Liberation Movement. Fundamental questions have not yet been answered: for example, whether the concept of human dignity can be upheld after humankind's transformation and transition to other systems or disappearance in other systems. For example, will it be allowed to switch off a machine when the machine itself declares that it does not want to be switched off? If ethical respect is founded on the presence of intelligence, the question arises whether software alone will do or whether only the special mixture of hardware and software, up to now mainly known to us from biological systems, characterizes what we could call "freedom worth protecting" and the "ability to suffer." It is for this reason that I would rather not pass a principal anthropological or ontological judgment on the question as to which systems should be protected by the civil rights. It may be that here, too, the wish to draw boundaries itself forms part of the problem. Attempts to define anything practically always bring about some form of exclusion. For that reason I would like to discuss a particular aspect of our Brave New World which has less to do with legal attribution than with the subject of cultural development: namely, to what extent, during the creation of androids, the cultural superstructure in particular areas could be modeled by these androids and how, in this way, the rest of the culture on earth could be influenced. Remember Feuerbach 1, who considered the projection of a god as the foundation of human self-awareness.

1. Ludwig Feuerbach, "Das Wesen der Religion" (1845) and "Grundsätze der Philosophie" (1843).

Following this train of thought two questions are of particular interest in respect to brain research: 1. Can the relation of projection in which human places him- or herself, and that could very well be of a multiple structure, be explained with concepts from the neurosciences? 2. Is it possible to predict to what extent androids will develop an altered relation of projection? Both these questions will be further investigated by way of the question concerning the relation between the androids and the theoids projected by them.


The question about the theological and religious projections of gynoids and androids 2 is of great importance, because these systems could bring new impulses into the culture of our society by way of possible religious needs.

2. Androids are creatures that are similar to "andros" (man, human being). And it is only fair to speak of "gynoids" (creatures similar to women) as well.

The theological option in relation to the implementation of computer systems does not seem to be very relevant yet. But if it becomes clear after further research that the performance of visual detectors for example, as we know them from human perceptivity, can be optimized by not only building a visual system but by interconnecting this at the same time with other systems - such as a linguistic system, for example - the pressure will increase to incorporate more components of a reflexive and self-addressing kind in such a combination of systems. Reflexivity however carries along with it the possibility of the paradox. If the process of self-addressing is not defined in time, the result could well be an endless repetition. That the system sees itself as a "self" is not reason enough to hold it responsible for its deeds, because the self, in a mental and neurological respect, can take up varying positions. One of the solutions for this problem could be to give the system not one but two or more representations. Such a duplication of the self representation could be structurally comparable to what Feuerbach tries to describe as human's projection of their own god. Probably the projection of one's own self in a god, apart from the question about his final and original reality, offers an initial impetus to the solution of Gödel's paradoxes 3: statements about the system as a whole are not ascribed to the system itself but to something outside of it; they are, however, accessible and available for this system.

3. The work of Kurt Gödel has shown that contradictions are bound to occur when statements about a system are made within that system and when these statements are considered as being part of that system as well.

If this ambivalence in the classification of statements is considered as an attempt to come to terms with Gödel's paradoxes, it is conceivable that integrated computer systems, if they try to make statements about their own condition - in order to improve their performance - and if they do not want to be caught in logical contradictions during the process, could develop a sort of "religious need." Likewise, it is not unthinkable that clever engineers who want to build reliable computer systems will not see the point of wearing themselves out with an autonomous consciousness. They will, as in a repetition of the human evolution, install the systems right from the start as believers, as a result of which they may count on a high level of hierarchy (with a minimum of feedback). Seen from this point of view, the present discussion about the consciousness of computers is too modern and premature: certain intermediate phases in the process of development are not sufficiently taken into account.

It could be advantageous to let a technological or biotechnological hybrid system, which is meant to take over the more complex functions of integration, retain a certain surplus of unused energy in the area of information technology, which could then be used as a source for configuring libidinized projection centers. Of course, the possibility always remains of the system not using this energy in a structural way to configure attractor systems 4 for the benefit of the representation, but of only appropriating it in a diffuse manner.

4. Attractors are places of low energy in a system.

Possible developments of this kind, however, have to be taken into consideration. Therefore it does not seem enough to provide cognitive computer systems with a sort of "physical aspect," as is the case with Vinograd and Flores, without going into the issues of upbringing and pedagogics concerning the management of internal energies. Without any doubt, adding energy that is not strictly information-bound presents a risk for the system. But then again this energy could facilitate the transition from one computational phase to another. What Edelman 5 calls "degeneration," a reduction of parallelisms possibly leading to a clustering, could also make a contribution to that end.

5. Gerald H. Edelman, "Bright Air, Brilliant Fire - On the Matter of the Mind" (Basic Books, New York, 1992).

Amplification systems, which make possible the transition from one computational phase to another (for example, remember the ascending amplification systems in the brainstem) could also be of importance, even when that transition itself is not without a certain lack of definition, in that respect showing similarities with the tying together of systems in history. For example, the process of transubstantiation provides the energy for the cognitive exchange between life on earth and the hereafter, without it being completely clear in what way that happens. The addition of such free energies, though, could involve such a system not only needing more time to learn but also having to take certain rest periods in its 24-hour and seven-day rhythm. This means that, unlike the computers we have known up to now, special attention should be paid to its on/off function. If a computer is itself able to largely implement linguistic encoding systems, the induction currents arising from the switching on and off could lead to the conversion of the internal energy condition into language. This, in turn, could lead to code representations of religious or magical systems which are so far unknown. I.e. that a new configuration of energy and information can stabilize new forms of thinking, that are independent of a reflected or recursive input of energy, and that are basically more interesting but at the same time possibly less understandable. So the creation of theories which are no longer comprehensible to man could be linked to the on/off switching characteristics of the networks.

In the event that the coherence between the different types of computational processes can be neither guaranteed by hierarchy nor by energy transitions, the development of rest periods with either identical or specifically thematized (ritualized) beginning and ending could be of great importance. If this should be ignored, the transitions between the different computational processes could be experienced as a sort of Nothingness (provided the system is up to experiences of this kind). And if the different computational processes were to have their own supra-signs, even a binary code could do nothing to prevent that.

It remains to be seen whether the new artifacts receive energy from human, of which they could partly have free disposal in order to facilitate the coordination between the processes that could not be modeled in a sufficiently creative way via the hierarchic method. It remains to be seen whether the phenomena associated with this receipt of energy are comparable to transubstantiation, to the Sabbath, or rather to alcohol and sex. New forms of less information-centered interaction with energies may emerge from the android system, which, translated into human terms, could have their impact on our behavior, our culture and our cerebral tendencies.


In the pre-motor cortex of primates (macaques), Rizzolatti 6 and his staff found centers that reacted specifically to grabbing movements of other members of the species.

6. G. Rizzolatti, "Premotor cortex and the reconition of motor action" (Cognitive Brain Research, soon to be published).

This means that movements performed by similarly structured systems can be detected by way of an inner motor imitation. Remarkably enough, the experiments showed that the neurons did not react to the grabbing movements of artificial grabs. The perception takes place according to a categorical composition, in which concepts such as personality or membership of the species play a role. This raises questions of an ethical nature for the construction of androids: for example, whether the detection of human beings should be filtered through the cognitive barrier of a species concept, or whether human beings should be recognized by androids as members of the same species. For the other way round - that is, detection of androids by humans - all possibilities could still be left open. In my opinion, however, it is more than likely that such neurons are not so much constructed following a design, but are rather products of the social history of the androids, gynoids and humans. In other words, the classification function of such neurons will, to a large extent, be determined by interactional experiences.

The neurons found by Rizzolatti and his staff are also of interest in another respect. They show that the motor imitation is important for detection and that those systems of inner imitation can be characterized as intermediaries between ego and alterity. Research in the perception of speech has also produced proof of this inner imitation. It shows that "understanding" can partly be explained as an inner echoing. This offers an interesting starting point for the interpretation of the social dimension of neural systems. These findings are of great importance in connection with a realistic assessment of social interaction, because they demonstrate that we do not have constructivistic authority over our detecting powers automatically and right down to the tiniest details, but that at least in the mid-zone of motor imitation we are, to a certain extent, governed by the alterity. The ambivalence of this mid-zone is reflected in the facets of the interpretation of sociality itself - whether through emphasizing the abstract subject or through emphasizing the solidarity dimensions. The structures of inner imitation as a model for the mid-zone also play an important role in designing the theoid, in addition to the experiences with the amplification systems and the energy reservoir. They could be of importance for the determination of the distance of what is projected - that is, the distance between the theoid and the projector.


If the mirror neurons really point to social interconnectivity and individuality - that is to say, to an individuality that is already present in the individual - a new perspective for the conception of the individual arises through the technical procedure of the serial reproducibility of the individual by means of cloning, a procedure we are familiar with from nature, especially in plants. The cultivation of cuttings in greenhouses could, through cloning, become an example for the production of human beings. Many of us will experience this as a horrible vision of the future and as a threat to the concept of individuality. However, a different view could be that individualism sees the possibility for its realization biologically in the process of cloning; that the individual does not need the others any more for its development, even in the field of reproduction. That taken into account, there could be increasing pressure to legalize cloning for individuals. Critics think this could bring human to give in to his dream of power: producing spitting images of himself. But considering the way people actually live, it seems more probable that they would rather produce clonoids than clones. After all, people often tend to be disappointed in their lives; for example, they would like to have more abilities at their disposal, whether it be in the area of playing the piano, communicating, or strong-willed behavior. So the creation of replicas is not likely to come about very easily; much sooner there will be little alterations - such as bigger eyes. The ethical objection to cloning, that diversity will be lost, is thereby unexpectedly removed. So we shouldn't expect clones but rather "clone-likes," clonoids. Since there is only a small chance of their being forbidden by law, we should perhaps ask ourselves whether we can not formulate requirements, be they legally or culturally founded, concerning the construction of the genetic diversity of clonoids. Shouldn't we argue in favor of systems that, in all probability, will act with a greater sense of justice than we have generally been used to up to now?


Freud already pointed out that the interoception, the flow of information proceeding from the inner organs, can be used energetically. Neurophysiology has made applicable that idea, within the concept of the non-specific afferentions 7, to flows of information from the external world as well.

7. Non-specific afferentions are understood to mean nerve fibers that branch from a specific bundle; i.e. a bundle that belongs to a particular sense. Non-specific afferentions can not be attributed to a particular sense.

The question about the possible construction of androids, gynoids, clonoids et cetera, reaches its critical point at the moment that the system disposes of the possibility to value the flow of energy purely with regard to its energetic dimension and to use these energies for the amplification of other flows of information. The system acquires a higher degree of freedom if a meaning can be attributed to these energies themselves, if the code is stored in the energy, if the logos can be recorded in the silicon. Such processes of extraction of energy from the information-signal coupling, from the energizing of other information systems, and from the codification, logification respectively semiotification of energy constellations, can hit the extreme limit when the system no longer confines itself to the constant shifting between the couplings of energy and information ánd the meanings of the resulting energy and information constellations, but when, in addition, it tries to mark the information and energy processes that took place with signs, in order to keep an overview of what it did before. Depending on the extent to which such signs are placed to record the structure of the system itself, the number of free possibilities for the uncoupling of energy and information would decrease correspondingly. A system that would attempt to make a representation of everything that occurs within it, would find itself in a never-ending process of trying to keep pace. If the number of neurons would not increase at the same time, the system would accumulate more and more information in itself, and in the end would have no free energy left, so it would die off mentally. It is exactly the lack of selfrepresentation that could ensure a longer existence. Will the earth soon be populated by androids, immortal because of their renouncement of selfrepresentation, or will they perish beforehand in the struggle about their theoid?


© Detlef Linke / V2_

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