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The Mental State of Noise: Prof Catherine Malabou, resp. Dr Benjamin Dalton

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Professor Catherine Malabou, respondent Dr Benjamin Dalton

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		The Mental State of Noise: Prof Catherine Malabou, resp. Dr Benjamin Dalton image

C O L L È G E I N T E R N A T I O N A L D E P H I L O S O P H I E

S É M I N A I R E S

Philosophie / Sciences et techniques

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ORG.: Cécile MALASPINA, Mark COTÉ, Patrick FFRENCH

Monthly open access seminar organised with the collaboration of King’s College London, Department of Digital Humanities, Department of French and the Centre for Philosophy and the Visual Arts.

The mental state of noise & the new frontiers of cognition

Rationality has historically been modelled on the power of calculation (ratio- Lat. reor, to count, calculate). Artificial intelligence, in turn, is commonly mapped onto received ideas of human intelligence. Suggesting a perfect if unequal fit between human and artificial intelligence, this narrow vision of intelligence conflates both with the power of calculation and logical deduction. Speed, volume and variety of forms of information processing have served as a measuring rod, to the extent that one thing is easily forgotten: the concepts of intelligence and of information remain fuzzy. This openness affords a degree of freedom, but it also facilitates the arbitrary imposition of a reductive conception of intelligence.

But what if we turn the question around? Rather than focus on the quantifiable performance of both human and artificial intelligence, we may ask: what qualitative aspects of intelligence are foregrounded, if we look at the specific ways humans and machines malfunction or capitulate before noise? Instead of comparing human and artificial processing power, we may ask more specifically about intelligence’s resourcefulness in the face of noise. How does our thinking about learning change, if we take into consideration the way humans and machines mobilise the generative potentials of noise? In this context, we will start with a working concept of noise that shall refer broadly to a source of uncertainty, unaccounted for variation or perturbation, but with a particular interest in the concept of ‘the mental state of noise’ as developed by S. Sands and J. J. Ratey. [1]

This seminar calls on thinkers from all disciplines, from philosophy to mental health and engineering sciences, to tackle the outstanding conceptualisation of noise specific to the context of cognition. The objective is to foreground aspects of intelligence that are neglected in the traditional focus on the quantifiable power of information processing. To this end, we will adapt the famous remark by the physiologist and surgeon René Leriche: ‘health is life, lived in the silence of the organs’. If pathology reveals the hitherto silent functions of our organs, we may ask by analogy what the breakdown of intelligence reveals about its silent functions and that of its organs, be they human or technical, individual or collective entities.

[1] Steven Sands, Jay J Ratey, “The Concept of Noise,” Psychiatry 49, no. 4 (November 1986): 290-297.

The seminar takes place online 5pm-7pm GMT (+0)

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Organiser Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London

Organiser of The Mental State of Noise: Prof Catherine Malabou, resp. Dr Benjamin Dalton

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