[NetBehaviour] PCMs

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sat Apr 7 16:27:36 CEST 2012


Years ago I designed a PCM, this was around 1970 maybe. PCM stands for
Parameter Control Module; the idea was to create a unit which could
connect and control other similar units. PCMs were digital but they didn't
need to be. There were any number of inputs and outputs. The idea was that
anything could be connected to anything else. In other words, there were
standardized simple protocols in terms of voltage and bandwidth; every-
thing functioned like blood in the veins of some untoward ganglion. In
order to enter the PCM array, translation was necessary from an outside
world into the protocols; this was the job of an input interface which
could be tailored for particular situations. The interface was divided
into two sections: the outer section was tailored to the world, and the
inner, to the emission of protocols. So the input interface was generous
in its acceptance. At the other end of the array, there was a similar
output interface, divided into two sections; the inner section was
tailored to the protocols, sending the signal current to the outer
section, which was tailored to the world, and generous. For example, an
audio input interface might take microphone signals and standardize them,
sending them to the array; an audio output interface might take the array
protocols and send them simultaneously to audio amplifiers and a lighting
board. What made the array of greater interest, of course, is that input
and output signals could also be applied directly to any particular PCM,
bypassing the standard interfaces. The array as a whole, as a ganglion,
would be in effect a ganglion open to the world at any place or space,
both for input and output. One might think of the PCMs as formal neurons.
Internally, the components of the PCMs might be smoothly voltage-control-
led, with the possibility of directly inputting different equations; one
might begin with standard smooth trigonometric functions and replace them
with discontinuities of all sorts, including chaotic behavior. I believe
to this day that designing the PCMs would have been a relatively trivial
matter. Although the project remained stillborn, the concept behind it
remains of interest to me. I've begun to think of the arrays, inputs and
outputs, as an affair in which anything might modify or influence any-
thing, including, reflexively, itself. The arrays in fact might be virtual
and one thinks only of empty, undefined, space or air, a distant model of
the real and external world, where such things happen. Thus anything here
and now has the potential for affecting anything else, and anything might
seem to turn around and talk directly with you, listening, at the same
time, to your innermost thoughts, whatever you choose to reveal: here are
the input and output interfaces. What goes on in such virtual arrays is
only the ideality of the world itself, the ability to take-for-granted
that there are always relatively stable domains for communication or
dwelling, for work or discourse, and so forth. Any dynamic action, any
action which changes in time, might be considered to be modeled thus; any
static action might be one which leaves the virtual array quiescent. The
size and power of the virtual PCMs are also of interest; as they decrease,
one might argue that the granularity of the world is increasingly differ-
entiated, just as their increase transforms the granularity into rougher
constructs handled by integration. In the middle lies everyday life, where
processing of this sort is kept to a minimum. I can imagine in this
fashion thinking of the world as a vast complex of fundamental operations
on the ordering of everyday life, just as Aristotelian logic and its laws
of distribution appear to deal well with the uncanny lack of transience of
everyday objects. The edges of such modeling, however, are always limit-
points which a different kind of roughness appears, for example quantum
phenomena or color vision or even corrosion. To some extent, these rough
processes, including unknown one, can be imagined within the virtual array
which would have additional signals, alarm signals, that anomalies were
working their way into or out of the array; there could be, in fact,
virtual interfaces utterly open to the real, whose sole purpose would be
the conversion of such anomalies. One process would be that of the name,
beginning with the proper name, and working towards untoward generaliza-
tions; another would be that of radical smoothing, and a third might be
the cessation of array activity altogether. I think of this as burrowing
or death, depending on the degree of destruction or rearrangement
encountered. Likewise, there would be inverse processes, those of birth or
emerging, in which partial identity transformations would remain and
perhaps even be backwards-traceable, backwards-compatible in terms of the
protocols. The whole, virtual and real, is a form of metaphor ready to be
implemented. I can only conclude that the same is already in the world,
and perhaps always already in the world, it is there and here, it is
operational or quiescent as you like. And such would be the world and its
dynamics; it is only a question of looking over your shoulder, back into
the space you have just left behind, forward into the space your are about
to enter. If you have the time, of course, without catastrophe or

- Alan in Omaha

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