General Cognition

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AI can capture the General Intellect, but not General Cognition

Sean Cubitt:

"This continuum of sensations and activities below the threshold of consciousness – digestion, breathing, balance and locomotion – connects everything from minds to minerals, and ensures all are permeable to one another, at the speeds of gut-flora or erosion. I’m going beyond Marie-Luise Angerer and Katherine Hayles and calling it general cognition.

The immense reservoir of General Cognition is not a ‘resource’ because it is outside consciousness and therefore shielded from exploitation. As black box, AI has been severed from the human intellectual and cognitive processes that produced its raw materials. At the same time, human users are ignorant of it. When AI converts enumerable statements into dynamic processing, there is no longer a fixed knowledge to lay claim to and therefore no subject of knowledge, on a par with God or Science, to know it. We need non-conscious cognition because we need not-to-know. After the foreclosure of any future, when the future is unthinkable, we need not-to-think. In this respect, the unknowable activities of AI processing mirror the unknowing processes of General Cognition, as each in their own ways escapes the determinations of power and profit. Waste product of grinding down the previous capitalist individual, the nonconscious dividual no longer needs an ‘I’ to mobilise desires and behaviours. Ground to data-dust, the dividual is prey to edge computing and regimes of control, but as unknowing post-subject, it bleeds out of the realm of capturable consciousness and therefore out of the realm of the General Intellect, moving towards General Cognition. Language is unsettled by its new escape from discourse and proximity to non-human code. Bereft of future or goal, the decentred dividual undergoes seismic tides from within and without that it experiences as anguish as often as it feels joy, both equally inexplicable. From the point of view of any efficient system, the dusty flux of General Cognition appears chaotic and intimidating, but it only turns into as noise when it touches on the boundaries of edge computing. Because it is a feature of edges, noise defines and is defined by exclusion and friction. As the place of encounter with an outside, noise is congruent with – shares the same shape as – trust. Trust only extends to the like-minded, and even then must be earned – and can be lost. Trust is as incomplete and ephemeral as the noise it attempts to distinguish itself from. The communicative, efficient cosmopolis of AI, similarly, oscillates between trust and distrust, acceptance and rejection of sources and resources, order and noise, and defines itself in relation to the untrustworthy flux of its externalities."


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