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From: "Alex David Groce" <adgroce@eos.ncsu.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) Re: Jaynes as influence on Wolfe's _Soldier_
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 13:20:45 

John Bishop wrote:
> In 1991 I wrote Gene Wolfe, asking him whether he had read Jaynes,
> and whether that had influenced _Soldier_.
> He wrote back saying that he had not read Julian Jaynes' book _The
> Origin_of_Consciousness_in_the_Breakdown_of_the_Bicameral_Mind_ until
> after he wrote _Soldier_, and found the book's hypothesis implausible. 
> (He also said "I would have liked to footnote every page."  The
> publisher didn't go along with this, as they felt it would reduce
> the number of sales.)
> So there you have it--a beautiful theory slain by a single ugly fact.
> I also found Jayne's hypothesis unlikely, as it fails to explain
> why the world is not still full of people who see gods.  I think he
> points to reading as crucial (if I recall correctly), but while
> literacy may work for some, there are still a lot of illiterates
> who seem to be self-conscious.  On the other hand, I like the
> approach--taking texts literally rather than 
> "spiritually" has
> been successful in the past (e.g. finding Troy based on Homer),
> and it does explain the large number of statues in the past compared
> to the small number today (though I explain that by pointing to
> other PR outlets than statuary we now have).

Hmmm.  Also, if you assume that when people "see gods" they aren't actually
seeing something externally present, IN ALL CASES, then the literary argument
seems to fall down--St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, etc.--some of
the most notable God seers of all time aren't just literate, but are even
authors.  Mind you, my personal explanation would be that they actually "saw
God"--not exactly the divine presence itself, but such that the phrase isn't

> re _Snow_Crash_: it was fun, but the basic premise is just wrong;
> Sumerian is _not_ the first language--it's maybe the oldest one we
> have texts from, but that's different.  Plus it's not a "brain-stem
> hacking" tool; I've looked at it in passing and it's just another
> language.  As a BA in Linguistics, I've not yet seen SF which gets
> Linguistics right at all; the tendancy is to go wild on the wildest
> version of Whorf' hypothesis, or to get some basic concept wrong.
> As an MSc in Computer Science, it's the same for computing.  This
> is not to say that there couldn't be a tool for programming the mind
> via language (indeed, advertising and so on show that there _is_),
> but it's not going to be Sumerian.

	I think Stephenson intends the basic premise to be nonsense.  Snow
Crash is a comedy--I mean, when a book names the hero Hiro Protagonist, you
should expect any conspiracy theories it uses to be complete hocum-pocum.  On
the other hand, Stephenson's computer stuff (if I recall) is quite good, but
then he was a programmer at one time (like Greg Egan).  I don't think
advertising "programs" the mind--influences, sure, but as a Comp. Sci person
myself that's a long shot from programming.  BOTNS sure influenced my mind, but
I can't say it programmed it.  And the subliminal message stuff that looked
like programming has now largely been discredited (the data was faked.)  To
actually "program" the mind, in my opinion, would require a stimulus that can
be shown to universally produce the same response in normal human beings (IE,
if the program was to run and it failed for a man with a broken leg that
wouldn't count) and the only thing close to that is vey basic human reactions,
like jumping at loud noises, etc.  I can "see through" a lot of advertising.  A
Turing machine can't see through a program...  Thus, if it existed, possesion
like in Long Sun WOULD be programming--a visual stimulus that actually "takes
over" the mind.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." - John 8:32
Alex David Groce (adgroce@eos.ncsu.edu)
Senior (Computer Science/Multidisciplinary Studies in Technology & Fiction)
'98-99 NCSU AITP Student Chapter President
608 Charleston Road, Apt. 1E (919)-233-7366

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