Silicon Valency


Authored on :
24/10/2019by :
Jenny Sprince

Containing Groups

We talked this morning . . .

Dear Bob,

We started an interesting conversation this morning about how to tame digitalisation, so that computers could be put to use for humans rather than the other way around.  That might seem obvious, but I often think that people find themselves in projective identification with their computers:  they find it hard to believe that a computer is only a machine. 

And you commented on how computers become members of the family. 

That made me think about pets, and their position in the family - and how a computer mimics the reliable attentiveness of a loving dog.   For example, when you open this Community Site, it says 'Welcome back' to you - rather like a loyal dog that can be relied upon to wait by the door and greet you lovingly as you walk in. 

And for some people, of course, their digital devices can feel like the idealised devoted mother of an infant, always there to provide attention and entertainment.

How do we distinguish that attentiveness - which is merely mechanical - from the attention contributed by real people, when they post articles and comments?   Words are words, after all - and computers can generate them automatically. 

And I have found myself having serious arguments with people who claim that computers can be said to have consciousness:  after all, they have cameras, so they can see.  

This makes it all the more important that this Site should offer regular Zoom room meetings where real people can talk to one another via the screen. 

We look forward to creating a programme of Zoom meetings - for APPCIOS members at first, but eventually for all regular visitors to the Site. 

I hope that real people out there, reading this, will contact us and offer to host some groups.  


Bob Hinshelwood


Yes, machines are part of our lives like never before.  When it comes to pets, they have chips literally under their skin!

I had a call from a phone company -- a really person as it happened.  I was very heartened.  until I realised he was talking to me in machine-speak.  What he said he was obvious reciting from what was on his screen.  Oh dear.

But my sense is it will settle down slowly as people find social media and games on the smartphone become a bit predictable.  Slowly we will drift back to...  people.  I hope.

Or my other pre-occupation is that civilisation will end.  We all need to be aware that no civilisation has lasted for ever and so all come to an end.  When will ours.  The Roman empire declined and fell (according to Gibbon) because of a loss of 'civic virtue' -- with all the lies and manipulations going around in public life I wonder if there is a decline in civic virtue in Western culture.

Gloomy.....  If only we could all have therapy everything would be happiness -- right?

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Jenny Sprince


So maybe we'll recover from this epidemic of siliconitis, or maybe it will destroy us!  Perhaps it's a bit like smallpox - in which case we can find a way of using a little exposure to immunise us against the more virulent forms of the disease.  

It feels quite important to me that you and I have such a variety of ways to communicate:  we talk to one another on Zoom, write to one another on this blog, and we also meet face-to-face from time to time at our King's Cross venue.   All these ways of meeting feel very different, and I think that they enhance one another.  I'm slowly beginning to adjust to the differences, and to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of contact. 

Perhaps this Site can offer other people an opportunity to do the same, and to think together about how best to use these various ways of relating to one another:   not therapy, not even group therapy - more a kind of community meeting. . .