2. An Outside View of Ourselves as Experimental AGI (Problems, Concepts, and Models)


The aim of this and the following three chapters is to engage—in a more detailed fashion—a question that overshadowed the foregoing chapter’s outline of the nature of mind as a configuring or structuring factor and as that which is capable of treating itself as an artefact of its own concept. This is the question of language as the dasein of geist—of language as a framework through which intelligence comes into cognitive contact with itself in the world. The question might be formulated as follows: What is it in language that makes the self-conscious form of intelligence not only possible but also amenable to self-determination and self-augmentation? To adequately answer this question, we have to reconstruct and explain the essence of language rather than simply highlighting it. If the ineffability of general intelligence is to be overcome, and if geist’s activities are fundamentally caught up in language, then we first of all need to understand language not in terms of some ineffable internal essence, but in terms of its computational capacities and formal autonomy; how it gains traction on the world and how it generates cognitive-practical abilities through which language-users can bring into conception—and potentially transform—themselves and their world. In other words, we need to inquire into how language is realized both at the level of natural evolution and that of social evolution, and how language functions both at its most fundamental level and at the level of what we might call the familiar picture of natural language and linguistic interaction (social discursive activities, the mappings between thoughts and speech acts, etc.).

To this end, our path to the nature of language, the nature of thinking, and general intelligence won’t be anything like a straightforward non-stop train ride across different continents of inquiry. This is a path that stretches out with bends and twists from one condition necessary for the realization of mind to another. On this ride, language is the last stop. At times we will stop the train to investigate the wilderness that we have only been able to experience vicariously through the windows. At other times, we shall take roundabout paths along tracks either long abandoned or still under construction. All things considered, our journey is a risky one, a gamble. Only those travellers who no longer think like tourists—that is, those who are not obsessed with getting back as quickly as possible to their comforting home—will enjoy and survive the ride…