Louis Armand, Mind Factory

A.K. Drees
Bowling Green State University

Armand, Louis, ed. Mind Factory. Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, 2005. Print. 341 pages.

[1] Mind Factory would be a strong addition to any library collection wanting a good sampling of essays on theories of mind; however, it may not be the best choice for scholars in the field. The introduction to this collection promises a group of essays addressing mind as "constituted solely in the separation or interface of the representable and the unrepresentable," (8) but the uneven quality and far-ranging topics of the essays in Mind Factory beg the question of why they share a single volume. Many of the individual essays are gems and useful theoretically. Still, the collection as a whole fails to present a coherent argument.

[2] After an interesting essay by Slavjov Žižek about capitalism and the disjunction of meaning and truth in contemporary philosophy, the rest of the pieces seem to be organized to create a spectrum of disciplines from quantum mechanics to deconstructive analysis of artworks. Ben Goertzel's "Quantum Minds" is a succinct description of how quantum computing, with its concepts of spreading memory and other cognitive functions across multiple parallel universes, can increase the scope of what we conceive of as cognition. The next piece, Ivan M. Havel's "At Home in Vesmir," wrestles with the question of whether or not consciousness is reducible to neuron activity. Using the analogy of defining a species as "a 'cloud' of points exhibiting non-null values of probability within some multidimensional space," (69) Havel begins to redirect the argument away from "easy" problems that stay in either the realm of psychology or neurology toward discussing the "hard" problem of how experienced consciousness and neuron activity are related.

[3] Next, the editor of the collection contributes his thoughts about the Turing test and the human desire to find reflexive consciousness in machines in an essay titled "Affective Intelligence and the Human Hypothesis." Along with the introduction, these two pieces by the editor seem to bracket the portion of the text that is actually about theories of mind. Most of the essays that follow are increasingly more tangential to the subject. Conversely, the usefulness of the text for students of cultural studies becomes ever more obvious. Theoricians of language should definitely read the savvy interplay between McLuhan and posthumanism found in "From the Cyberglobal Chaosmos to the Gutenberg Galaxy: The Prehistory of Cyberelectronic Language(s)." Similarly, "The Letter Giveth" is an attempt to define "life's technicity" (119) which is a deft contribution to the Derrida-Steigler debate on the aporia of origin in deconstruction.

[4] For those whose focus is on literary studies both Critchley and McCarthy's "Universal Shylockery" and Tofts's eerie "Mind Games: Borges, Virtualiy & the Limits of Credulity" are each a tour de force. Critchley and McCarthy use the seemingly exhausted trope of economic language in The Merchant of Venice to make a cogent and timely argument about excess in modern capitalism. Following the path of a supposedly fictional account of Borges's trip to Australia, Tofts finds himself in a Borgesian drama of missing texts and ultimately indeterminate states of truth.

[5] The other essays that stand out in the later portion of the text are McKenzie Wark's "Allegorithm" about the interplay among the gamer, game, and gamespace of The Sims and Zoe Beloff's "Natalija A. & Eva C.," a detailed set of notes and reflections on a pair of art installations about technology, spiritualism, and the female body.

[6] Although there are many excellent essays in Mind Factory, ultimately they are too dissimilar in focus and intent to form a coherent collection. If your purpose is to teach the variety of methodologies of examining mind as a concept, it may be useful. If I were to choose a collection of essays as a basis for a beginning graduate class in theories of mind, I would seriously consider this book – not because it represents important essays on the topic but rather because it shows the breadth of methodologies that can be applied to the question of consciousness.