Writing a cybernetic novel

The Island Survival Guide and narrative reflexivity

The Island Survival Guide and narrative reflexivity

I would like to define a cybernetic novel as one that writes itself, or one where the reader is also the narrator. A novel that possesses self-reflexivity. I made the sketch (see above)  some time ago while thinking about my novel “The Island Survival Guide“. When I say “I thought about my novel” I mean as a reader, not as a writer. In fact, cybernetic writing blurs the distinction between writer and reader, and finally break it down completely: the writer is the reader who is the writer, and so on. As it does so it also undermines and destroys a more significant dichotomy, the difference between the narrative (object) and the narrator/reader (subject). The two become one, one reflecting into the other. This is of course a logical paradox. Cybernetic writing is a logical paradox based on reflexivity.

The paradox of narrative reflexivity that defines a cybernetic novel is what makes it what it is; it is a paradox that creates an escape hatch, or a quantum wormhole, connecting two different universes that exist in different dimensions. The mind is free to travel between these two narrative universes. As it travels it transfers experiences and knowledge between the two universes. Thus, the paradox of narrative reflexivity becomes the act of creation. The novel is created as a dialogue between the 3-dimensional (+time) universe of the narrator/reader/writer (the terms cease to have distinct meaning in a reflexive narrative context) and the multi-dimensional universe of the novel.


M C Escher’s rendering of reflexivity in narrative: cybernetic writing

As old meaning breaks down because of continuous feedback between the narrator and the narrative, new meaning is created.

The Island Survival Guide was my second experiment in writing a cybernetic novel (my first being The Secrets of the Lands Without).

The big bang of the human mind, and our desire to build artificial beings

The “big bang of the human mind” took place around 40,000 years ago, when our prehistoric ancestors developed general purpose language. The reasons why this happened are yet unclear, and probably involve a number of genetic mutations. We know that something changed because of the emergence of art, as well as dramatic changes in hunting methods, tool-making, and the systematic and ritualistic burial of the dead that suggests belief in an afterlife.

This presentation explores the latest findings of cognitive archeology in order to propose an idea: that ever since we developed our modern minds we have become dualists, i.e. we have become hardwired to assume other minds (the so called “theory of mind”) in other people, but also in animals and objects. Perhaps then, it is this faculty of the modern human mind that compels us to engineer machines “in our own image”: intelligent robots and androids that look like us, think like us, and behave like us.

For more on this idea, and how it provides a fresh insight to our technological quest for Artificial Intelligence, see my book “In our own image – will artificial intelligence save us or destroy us?” (Rider Books, 2015).