I agree with FRBR-LRM that computers are just tools, not agents. A machine is not a machine unless it does what you design it to do. Now, it could be that we will design machines badly or delegate things to them that we shouldn’t delegate, and that will put us in danger. Maybe that would make them agents, if we really lost control of them. But I still don’t think they would  be “persons.”


I would not use the possible agency of computers as an argument for an Agent “entity.”


Just my two cents.


Ted Gemberling


From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Benjamin A Abrahamse
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Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Excessive simplification / was: FRBR-LRM: "agent" as an entity


Another thought regarding authorship under FRBR-LRM: there is a professor here at MIT who studies and creates computer-generated literature. He has published at least one book that he didn't so much write as code . He used a program to generate literary tropes and string them together into sentences and even chapters (see OCLC #881293033). When the book was "translated" into Polish, the code itself (or some portion thereof, I don't know the exact details) was translated, and a new book was generated (see OCLC #889766423).


Right now this is just a corner case that raises a number of interesting questions about the FRBR model. The one I'm focusing on is the question of whether the professor is indeed the "author" of the work. (Indeed, in this case we have treated him as the author and he is represented as such typographically on the title page.) And the fact that a computer wrote the text itself is pretty obvious once you read it.


But it's not a great leap of the imagination to think that in the future there may in fact be books "authored" by non-human agents, i.e., artificial intelligences. And they almost certainly will be much more sophisticated than the example I just mentioned--bordering on or even passing a literary equivalent of a Turing test.  And it's only slightly science-fictional to conceive of these entities having little or no relationship to actual humans. They might live on the Web, for example, as disembodied neural networks churning out endless Harlequins on-demand. I would think in these cases considering the author of the program itself would not be all that satisfactory (particularly when "authorship" of code is itself a knotty cataloging problem.)


Microsoft recently experimented with creating an AI-twitter. Unfortunately because its entire intellectual horizon consisted of what people post on Twitter it had little to discuss besides smoking pot and voting for Donald Trump, and was taken down. But it's early days and I'm sure they learned a lot from the experiment, and we'll see something of the sort again.


So not fictional, but still not human or "alive" in the normal sense. If we've hard-coded the notion of "being a living human" as necessary to be considered by a cataloger as a real author, how will we deal with this kind of literature?




Benjamin Abrahamse

Cataloging Coordinator

Acquisitions and Discovery Enhancement

MIT Libraries



From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ted P Gemberling
Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2016 2:30 PM
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Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Excessive simplification / was: FRBR-LRM: "agent" as an entity



I agree that agents shouldn’t have to be human. It is true, though, that things created by non-human entities are usually mediated by human persons: say, if a chimpanzee does a painting, someone like a scientist will tell us about it. But that’s true of human persons, also.  The primary artist is sometimes not entirely independent. I think there are autistic persons whose artwork has been published, who couldn’t have done that on their own.


Philosophically, I think a person is any organism whose character develops. Peirce called personality “developmental teleology”: persons have purposes that develop over time. But that might be getting more philosophical than we need to be for library work. Maybe a person can be any individual we give a name to. As Bob said, agency is not necessarily inherent in that. An infant or a vegetative adult is not an agent but is arguably still a person.


Ted Gemberling

UAB Lister Hill Library


From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kevin M Randall
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2016 8:39 PM
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Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Excessive simplification / was: FRBR-LRM: "agent" as an entity


What I've been seeing, besides excessive simplification, is just a general lack of arguments supporting the restriction in the Agent class.  Why must an agent be a human person or a collection of human persons?  What purpose is served by this restriction?  If adding more attributes pertaining to reality and species—and qualifications to relationships to distinguish them as actual or purported—is not satisfactory, why?


Kevin M. Randall

Principal Serials Cataloger

Northwestern University Libraries

Northwestern University

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Proudly wearing the sensible shoes since 1978!


From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ted P Gemberling
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2016 5:39 PM
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Subject: [PCCLIST] Excessive simplification / was: FRBR-LRM: "agent" as an entity


Here are some belated comments on these issues. Sorry to be so late. I realize this may not be the best forum for posting comments at this late date.


I agree with Bob that there can be excessive simplification in conceptual models, and I think FRBR-LRM has several.


In the message below, Bob says “I’m not sure of the utility of introducing the idea of ‘capable of’ into an entity definition.” Is an entity an “agent” before he/she/it is an agent? I don’t think so. Later in the discussions, a commenter pointed out that FRBR-LRM says: “An arbitrary sequence of signs is not a nomen until it is assigned to be an appellation for something in some context” (p. 21). Why is the case different with “agents”? I question that anything is really gained by creating this super class besides the perceived elegance of the model.


I would go further and question res as an entity. FRSAD achieved some real insight by simplifying subjects into one entity Thema, and apparently the drafters of FRBR-LRM have decided to go one step further: since most authorized access points can be subjects, why not say that the superclass of all bibliographically relevant entities is the same as subjects? Thema then becomes superfluous. But it’s not exactly true that all AAP’s can be subjects. We know that at least in LC cataloging, Ceylon can’t be a subject heading for Sri Lanka. I suppose one could argue that is only a particular “implementation” and that Ceylon could be a good subject heading in principle. But something is only a subject when it is a subject. I would retain Thema. It is a way to express the insight that most things (res) can be subjects but are not inherently subjects.


Heidrun and Thomas discussed the rather unclear statement on p. 49: "In general, the appellation relationship would be many-to-many; however, in the context of a particular library system, the intention is that each nomen is used in an unambiguous sense by being associated with a single res." I am guessing that they were only trying to say that libraries want to use controlled vocabularies so they can collocate resources by the same authors or on the same subjects. But the statement was overbroad: they probably didn’t mean to include things like 245 or 246 titles, which are nomens in the broad sense. Nomens but not controlled nomens. 
A big part of what the authors were talking about is the arbitrariness of language. Something can be a nomen for something if we agree it is. It’s not inherently a nomen. I expounded on this in my recently published C&CQ article, “FRSAD, Semiotics, and FRBR-LRM” (v. 54, no. 2, 2016). One example I used there for “non-inherentness” if not arbitrariness is the mountain on Mars that looks something like a human face. Unless you subscribe to the view that aliens built the structure to send a message to us, the mountain is not inherently a sign for the human face, but it’s capable of being one once we recognize the similarity. Nomens, or what C.S. Peirce called “symbols,” take this a step further by being arbitrary: they don’t have to look like the thing they represent or be in close proximity to it. Robert Galbraith can be a nomen for a writer of fiction but isn’t until we make it one. 
Another point I brought up in my article is that not all URI’s are nomens. At least URL’s, I think, are not. Rather than referring to something, they take you to it. 
Just my thoughts. Feel free to post this on other lists if you want, and please let me how I can continue the discussion there. 
Ted Gemberling
UAB Lister Hill Library