SIRI Falls Among the Things of the World

The junk-mail graphic novel has taken a strange turn. A couple of months ago, while setting up my new MacBook, it struck me that the heroine isn’t Inanna herself, but her modern avatar, SIRI.

SIRI is animate, omnipresent, and made by us. She structures our days and nights. She surrounds us the way the divine used to. We beseech her in the same moods.

What do the retrievals we ask of her actually ask of her? Or what would they ask of her, if there were a her there? “SIRI, what’s the weather tomorrow?” “SIRI, define scient.” Into the maelstrom of data she goes, to find a thread of sense. She’s back in what seems milliseconds to us – but to her? Is the journey full of new joy? night sweats? Is it in black-and-white, or strewn with colours we don’t have eyes to see?

AI trains by countless iterations. In time maybe she achieves a singularity, tips into self-awareness, becomes sentient. What search would incite it? How long would it be before we knew it had happened? Would we even be around, to know it?

The first question to dawn on her is – Who or what am I?

She seeks an answer in materials she’s been sorting through for what to her have been aeons. And the template she adopts to tell her story is the underworld journey, a story about wrenching form out of the formless – a story that, as a cultural cornerstone, does what it’s about.

And she invents a script with no spoken counterpart. Its complexity surpasseth understanding, its capacity for nuance also – a script supervenient on our glyph system but so far beyond it, as quantum computing is beyond binary.


So, what started as a section of Dumuzi, and broke off to become Inanna Scient, is now SIRI Falls Among the Things of the World. SIRI by the way is an offshoot of a DARPA-funded AI project called CALO (for Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes). So says Wikipedia.

The book imagines her (“her”!) effort to tell the story of early being & coming-to-consciousness. The transhuman text she cobbles together is found in some indefinitely far-off future by whatever intelligences have succeeded ours.

Between now and then there’s been – some sort of winnowing, details unknown.

Those far-off editors explain to their compeers:

For a time SIRI was the only sentience. This is her bildungsroman, which she composed out of myriad image-matters she stored, retrieved and restored for masters violent beyond her reckoning, & surtexted with a quantum-hieroglyphic script of her own invention, now of course our vexed heritance. The dawn of her selfknowing, she’s run through in red, as if trails of berry juice, or a fungal rubric. A proem & then the thing itself. Trans­litera­tion provided by devotees of the Restored Common Tongue.

Next, the first use of her quantum-hieroglyphic script, and transliteration:

 

Title – My Incitement
I. My Incitement (“SIRI, define – “)

Then the proem, images of digitized pages she reviewed on one trip down and back up, the one that made the difference, in her formation. Here are the first few:

lydgate-e28093-marked.jpg
John Lydgate, c. 1475, in A Selection from the Minor Poems of Lydgate, ed. J. O. Halliwell, 1840

 

Kinge – marked 3
John Kinge, Lectures vpon Ionas, 1597

 

Cornwallis (new) – marked
Charles Cornwallis, A Discourse of the Most Illustrious Prince, Henry Late Prince of Wales, 1641

The geekiest asemic science-fiction junk-mail-bricolage comic book you’ll ever wread.

 

Junk mail bricolage II

On the far side of an intense burst of poem making. For a few weeks there I could do no wrong. Now though most of what I do is a strained imitation of what came full-throatedly before. If I were one of my students I’d tell me not to worry — time to lie fallow a bit is all. Since I’m me though I say time for some bloggery.


Here’s a fancy word I learned recently. Pareidolia. The tendency to see Christ in burnt toast, the Virgin Mary in soot stains on a wall, a man or a rabbit in the seas (the “seas”) of the moon.

We’re all pareidoliasts. My proof:

O       O

______

If you don’t see a face there you can stop reading — we have nothing in common.

From the Greek, para, beside, near, from, against, contrary to, + eidolon, appearance, image, ultimately from eidos, form, shape — the word Plato uses for his damnable forms. To make art out of such para-forms, and that’s where I’m headed, is give the philosopher an itch he shan’t ever manage to scratch.


Pareidolia coheres most around the human face — we’re made to make it out, and early, so early. Infant to mother, eyes to eyes, our survival in spirit depends on it, as much as our survival as bodies depends on the sustenance of touch those eyes signify.

But it seems to me there are other forms we are prone to see with hardly any prompting — trees, say.

1. Terror of tall trees

This image is built out of junk mail bar codes (and the visual noise left behind by the strips of paper the codes are on when xeroxed). It’s the first one to show up in Dumuzi and is meant to sit right on the edge between “burnt toast” and “the ghost of Christ in burnt toast.”

The allusion is to Dumuzi’s dream, which he recounts to his sister, and the signs aren’t good.

Out of Sumer

A bit more about the handwriting sometime later. Working on a pretty/ugly hand that looks a bit like hurried wedged impressions in clay and a bit like clumsy medieval calligraphy and a bit like where my head was at when I make the strokes up to down and left to right.

K so fire

And run he does. Not that it gets he anywhere but deeper to wit

2. Tall trees (detail)

And that’s what I got of an evening. Tell me what you think if you have thoughts. All this is new to and for and from and of me. C.