Turkle takes up the thorny issues of identity and artificial intelligence in her second section, "Of Dreams and Beasts." Looking at the ways children react to interactive toys, Turkle weaves with skillful precision a picture of the psychotherapeutic complexities of adult interaction with computers. Turkle explains (quite well, I think) why children seem "so willing to grant psychological status to not-alive machines" (83), and why adults flinch less these days at the boundary between human consciousness and the machine. Taking examples from MUD 'bots and how people interact with them and feel about them, Turkle is able to shift comfortably from her research in computer psychotherapy to her discussion of software agents, artificial intelligence, and biomorphing. Basically, she writes, the shift in AI research goes from a philosophy of AI as "being made up by a complex set of rules programmed in advance" to "theories of intelligence as emergent" (126). For Turkle, artificial life is the new frontier. In fact, A-Life seems less threatening to people than AI did, probably because we see A-Life as a "practical threat (in the form of computer viruses), not a philosophical one" (153).
There are sidetracks into chaos theory, genetic algorithms, and other scientific foraging as Turkle mounts her arguments for a new way to conceive our prosthetic lives, and these often seem off-track. But readers would do well to follow her arguments. You'll find that Turkle seldom makes connections that aren't worth making. Connectionism is one way to describe her mode of intelligibility, but it's also a description of her philosophy. "Cycling through different and sometimes opposing theories has become how we think about our minds" (174). Cycling rapidly through identity and virtual reality, like moving from "window to window" has become a significant aspect of millenial life.
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