[OPE] knowledge without a knowing subject

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date: Fri Feb 20 2009 - 18:53:44 EST

Paul C.,

Ian Wright is the artificial intelligence guy, not me.

In his book Objective Knowledge, Popper has a Plato-type theory of knowledge. In Popper's interacting three world theory, there exists (1) a material world, (2) a mental world, and (3) a world with the products of the mind. These products of the mind include knowledge, and thus knowledge can be lodged in products, in separation from the knower. Popper gives the example of everything being destroyed except the library, and how with the aid of the library that everything can be rebuilt again. But a number of things in this analogy are not very clear.

If you think that "knowledge without a knowing subject" is feasible, you ought really to define your terms, and give examples.

Usually this expression "knowledge without a knowing subject" is understood to be a sort of reification, i.e. the idea that knowledge is a bunch of bytes on a memory stick (or a euphemism for undesirable sexual practices).

A distinction is also usually drawn in informatics between knowledge and information. The idea is that knowledge is an attribute of consciousness, and thus if comprehension in consciousness is absent, knowledge is absent.

In the world of work, there's often a class struggle between the management class, and the working class people operationalizing what has to be done, which is precisely about the control of knowledge. Many issues are involved, such as "what does person X really know, and how would we know that?", "how do we stop access or gain access to information?".

The managers, who "own" a workprocess via budgetary control, aim to reorganise and control the work process to make it better and more efficient, but they are handicapped by their lack of knowledge of what those workprocesses actually are - most of them have no longterm commitment to their management function - and in reality they have to trust the spontaneous cooperation of the workers in order for things to work at all.

The workers for their part however tend to organise the work according to their own social, human and practical understandings, and they resist restructuring, often by simply not volunteering the ideas and actions necessary to keep the work going, so that things stuff up badly, without being able to place the blame on any worker.

Using a whole bag of tricks, the managerial attempt is then made to "extract" all the algorithms defining a workprocess, and the division of labor is reorganised, so that so that the worker is organised around the job again, instead of the job being organised around the worker. Well, the manager obviously tries to organise the work around himself as the centre, but that is to say there must be organisers and organised.

In such processes, you can get a sort of "reification" happening, insofar as you become an appendage of a computerised information system which objectifies all the information essential for your job, or you become an automaton who simply carries out the orders of the manager within the limits of a predefined style. Even so, the manager cannot be everywhere at once, and thus the apparent control can be more or less playfully subverted again. The master/slave dialectic can be inverted.

The "knowledge" is often no longer in your mind, but objectified in the computer - all you do is query, choose, decide, interpret, initiate, transfer, conclude, etc. - or, the knowledge has been extracted from you, and put somewhere so it is accessible to the manager, who now has the double benefit of opulent salary and the knowledge that originally belonged to you (extracted without exchange).

But the question is, whether the knowledge really can exist without a knowing subject, and what happens when you take the knowing subject away. Can you still perform all operations, without the knowing subject?



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Received on Fri Feb 20 18:55:41 2009

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