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This post was prompted by some thoughts that occurred to me while watching a TV program about the AI researchers who built "Watson", the voice
-equipped computer they hoped to test out by having it compete against the top human Jeopardy contestants. The AI team "fed" the machine data
from the Encyclopedia Brittanica to the Periodic Table to sports records to historical records to fine arts, sacred scriptures, world literatures, etc., etc.
Plus, they equipped it with a program to seleect, lightning-quick, the best from among the 'possible' answers to the Jeopardy question. Those AI
researchers became OBSESSED with the project, and talked about "Watson" as if it were a person, an incredibly intelligent one. My question----how
much of this "animism" (attributing human characteristics to a machine) came from the decision to supply the contraption with a masculine speaking
"voice" is anyone's guess. Anyway, it made me think about Ahab and his obsession with Moby Dick, and how the obsessed man attributed "Evil" to
the white whale. Nowadays, in this age of Machines of the most fantastic sorts, are we now going to write and read tales of mankind's obsession
with machines, to which a 21st century kind of animism will be attributed? Television has already ventured into this surreal place.
I remember a few decades ago someone (Norbert Weiner?) wrote (in The Human Use of Human Beings) that "men are becoming more mechanical,
and machines are becoming more human."
Last Edited on: 7/9/13 4:36 PM ET - Total times edited: 15
I seem to recall reading in a footnote that Melville toyed with the idea of a sequel to The Whale. In it, Ahab miraculously survives his encounter with Moby, though with damage to his leg. He washes up on a desert island. He meets a village of cheerful natives who may or may not be cannibals. And of course they have a comely daughter. At first, they are not willing to entertain the idea of a peg-legged son-in-law. So the plot hinges, by turns comical and phiosophical, on Ahab's efforts to ingratiate himself with his prospective in-laws, first by getting over that pesky obsession......
Matt: What a crazy plot for a sequel to Moby Dick! But I really liked your phrase, "So the plot hinges, by turns comical and philosophical . on . . . ."
Just like the "human comedy" always has, right?
Charles K.: Er . . . .uh . . . . . I don't remember where I first heard the notion the the whale personified Evil to Ahab . . . .I used to wonder how a
modern-day psychiatrist would diagnosis Ahab, but never researached that any further.
Yeh, gosh, I was wondering when somebody was going to call me out for spouting such monstrous balderdash about the sequel, no doubt entiled, "Son of Moby Dick." I was born a tease, so I can't help it. Ask my mother about the time when ten year old me tied a rubber band around my tongue. When I talked, she thought I was having a stroke.
As for the pace of dicussion, it's very 18th century when messages had to cross oceans on ships. Not like today with new-fangled contraptions like the cable and the wireless.
Charles: If you don't mind preposterous premises and generous amounts of kinky sex in your novels, maybe you could get some sorta salacious pleasure out of that novel . . . . if you do expend the time and eyestrain it takes to read it, give us your "take" on it, please.
P.S. I can supply a very good recipe for New England clam chowder to anyone whose mouth is set to watering by that pertinent passage in Moby Dick.