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Alan Shapiro, "Star Trek, Marx and Time Travel"

"Star Trek, Marx and Time Travel"
Alan Shapiro

[As a software specialist, Alan Shapiro would like to set the digital
world on a new footing. As a philosopher, he wants to introduce new
thinking into the world. And as an "anarchist reader of Marx" (self-
description), he not only steers Marx's critique of capitalism in a
new direction, he also believes that alienation and exploitation can
be dragged and dropped to the trash of history. Shapiro, who at one
time worked at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT), has been active for 20 years as a software developer and media
studies scholar, especially in Germany. In February, he will be a
signature speaker at the 2012 Berlin Transmediale media and art festival.]

Neues Deutschland: You want to develop a completely new kind of
computer, and found a New Computer Science. How are we to understand
that?

Existing computers are based on the scientific norms of the 17th
century. They go back to the mechanistic philosophy of Rene Descartes.
Their goal is to reduce complexity. A problem is broken down into
smaller, more manageable units. This works for a kind of machine-like
software. There is no holistic relationship between the parts and the
whole. The parts and the whole are related to each other like the
parts of a car. In 20th and 21st century philosophy, by contrast, a
lot of emphasis is placed on an integral perspective. I am thinking
above all of the French thinkers like Deleuze, Baudrillard and
Foucault. The New Medicine and the New Biology are also characterized
by an integral approach.

What does that mean when transferred to Computer Science?

New computers should come closer to this integral approach. Biology
teaches us that each individual member of a species, in every second
of its existence, is reading its genetic code. From this body of
knowledge that belongs to its species, the singular individual decodes
information in real-time for its own existence. Transferred to
computer science, this means that we must develop a new relationship
between the executable program and the database elements.

Will that lead to better, faster, and more powerful computers?

Computers will themselves become more complex rather than being
engineered as tools for the reduction of complexity. Let us face this
fact: with existing software, nothing surprising can happen. There can
be no surprises and no emergence. Only what the software developer has
pre-programmed can occur. New computers will be more flexible.

What we intend to do can be described as a new relationship of
patterns and similarities. It?s like in music, where, for example,
each single note in a symphony has resonance with the entire symphony.

You take your examples from science and art. Do you believe that
artistic approaches are helpful in technology development?

Absolutely! I am very influenced by the cultural revolution of 1968,
by the student rebellions, the liberation movements in all areas of
society, also New Age and Buddhism, the whole panorama of holistic
ideas for happiness.

I published a book about the technologies of Star Trek. It has been
recognized as an important work of sociology. I believe that we are
very close to a new paradigmatic breakthrough where art, science, and
philosophy will be unified. Then we will be able to develop the Star
Trek technologies. In the middle term, in about 20 years, time travel
will also be possible. The first step towards that is the New Computer
Science.

At the present time, almost everyone who believes himself to be in
touch with the times wants to bring art, science, and philosophy into
harmony with each other. What is different about what you are doing?

We unify theory and practice. That?s what Karl Marx said. I have done
an anarchistic reading of Marx. We will replace work with play,
enjoyment, friendship, creativity, and diversity of activities.

This is a new anarchistic Marxism that we will first try out at
Shapiro Technologies as a radical-pragmatic utopian experiment.

What will Shapiro Technologies develop?

We will be active in technology, media, futuristic design, and
ecology. The basis of our advanced technology is a new mathematics
that has been developed by the Irish mathematician Alexis Clancy. He
is a genius, a new Einstein.

The individual products can be very diverse. We are trying at the
present time to get contracts at the Deutsche Bahn in the area of
logistics, at Volkswagen or another automobile manufacturer in the
areas of Spoken Dialogue Technology and the Car of the Future, with
Computer Games developers working on emotions and storytelling/
narrative, in Japan with interactive talking comic books, and at Pixar/
Disney in America with Artificial Life characters at theme parks.

In February, you are going to present a new car at the Transmediale.
Can you tell us something about that?

The car should no longer be reduced to the transport function of
getting from Point A to Point B. Here it is also about taking an
integral approach. Speech capabilities should be integrated. The car
will become a new game platform. Video projections can be made on all
the car's windows with a new glass technology. The car becomes a
cockpit for all kinds of virtual reality simulations which are at the
same time experienced physically. The car becomes a vehicle for
traveling into cyberspace. Additionally, the car should be turned on
its side, be transformable into a vertical car, its width should be
decreased by 45%. As they are now, cars take up much too much space in
the urban environment.

Interviewer: Tom Mustroph
Interview in the Berlin daily newspaper "Neues Deutschland," January
5, 2010
Translated from the German by Dwight "Doc" Gooden