LaGrandeur @ PostNatural - Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts October 3-6, 2013
University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA

IEET Fellow Kevin LaGrandeur will speak at the annual meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts on:

Magical Code and Coded Magic: The Persistence of Occult Ideas in Modern Gaming and Computing

My presentation will examine the correspondences between the magical codes of the
Renaissance wizard and the virtual “magic” produced by the coding of modern computer
wizards, who use the information inherent in symbolic, programming language—their own form
of incantations—to program systems that embody impressive aspects of human cognitive
capabilities and, often, formidable physical power. Coding is the primary tool of modern
scientists and gamers who try to make digital artifacts, and coded incantations that derive from
occult knowledge are the first methods that Renaissance scientists resorted to when trying to
create and control their artificial servants and intelligent artifacts. This coded correspondence
between words and reality goes beyond metaphor in the realm of artificial servants and artifacts
in both the modern and early modern periods. In the case of the sixteenth century legends of the
golem, for instance, the Cabalistic combinations of the Hebrew alphabet and the various secret
SLSA 2013 Online Program Page 7
names of God that its creator chanted literally made flesh out of earth. In the modern world, the
special codes comprised of algorithmic combinations of words, numbers, and symbols that
today’s computer specialists type into their machines actually weave together the fabric of virtual
worlds and creatures like bots and, in some modern systems theory and in the world of science
fiction, have the potential to create full-fledged human simulacra, such as the robots in Asimov’s
I, Robot, and the avatars in online games.