Monday 20 September 2010

The cybernetics of curiosity

On my way to talk to Sugata Mitra last week, I was trying to work out what curiosity was. There's definitely an interplay of systems, it seems to me... (Kant I think was probably the first to realise that). The question is, what are the mechanisms? I'm beginning to think that all engagement with the material world is in one way or another a process of modelling another human being, of engaging with the material as we might an activity or game, as a 'safe' way of identifying the person behind it. This is what I think Mitra's children do with the strange computer that suddenly appears in the wall; they want to model him, whilst also realising the causal power of the computer on them, and thinking how they might become models for other children (there's something to do with power there which I haven't thought about properly yet!). I think Alice's curiosity when she saw the cake that said "EAT ME" was this sort of modelling.
What then when we're curiously walking through an exotic capital city? We are disrupted, coerced, exhorted... is  this like discovering the computer in the wall? does the city have a 'person' behind it that we are trying to model? What of the curiosity of walking into a forest? I wonder if there's something of 'god' in both the city and the forest. What's puzzling to me is that this recognition of a presence behind the city or the forest seems so similar to the recognition of another person.

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