techno-science

Theory

"It is the theory that decides what we can observe." (Einstein)

"It is more important that a theory be beautiful than it be true." (Paul Dirac)

In Greek, theoria originally meant a looking at or viewing and theoreo, a spectator. In this sense, theory and Visuality are metaphors of each other.

Is the theoretical attitude is that of the disengaged observer? Does theory require a distinction between the illusionless observer and the gullible participant, or to put it more mildly, between theory and observation? Does theory always entail what John Dewey derided as the "spectator theory of knowledge"? Perhaps to theorize is to create the impression of something that existed already (or, even better, always already) (see metaphor) In the Pragmatic tradition, theory is the critical reflection on "belief." William James calls it "an appetite of the mind," what Frank Lentricchia calls "the need to generalize" and "to obliterate differences." (quoted in Cary Wolfe, Postmodern Theory and the Pragmatics of the "Outside" )

But according to the Greek conception, theory is not a knowledge but touching (thigein ).

Read More

A-Life

"The question, at which point we draw the line between living and non-living is not a scientific question.The line between living and non-living at the beginning of evolution is arbitrary, just as the line between human and non-human primates at the end of evolution is arbitrary.The task of science is not to define the exact position of the line but to understand how it came to be crossed."

Read More

art/science

The French zoosystéician Louis Bec argues that "With the advent of the sciences of the "artificial" and of communication, as well as the explosion of the technosciences and the sciences of the living a "lieu" (site or place) has emerged in which the total integration of arts, sciences, and technology can be achieved. There are now two different "epistemological poles" that encompass this integration. The first strives to link "poetic", "symbolic" descriptions of nature's mechanisms to scientific ones, producing " metaphorical expressions". (cf Gaia) The second involves activities ( cybernetics, artificial intelligence,...) which, among other ends, ultimately aim to simulate and act on the world, to better understand it by transforming it. (See Artificial Life II

Read More

clock

clock

The clock is a particularly emblematic piece of technology.The invention of the mechanical clock in the thirteenth century inaugurated a new representation of time. For the West, the clock symbolized regularity, predictibility, and control. A clock serves to produce a correspondence between events and vertices of time moments. 

Read More

computation

In the 1930's logicians and mathematicians like Turing, Church, Gödel, and Post contributed to the path-breaking exploration of the mechanical computational process. They became for computers what Watson and Crick would become for biotechnology. Subsequently philosophers like Hilary Putnam and Jerry Fodor developed what is now called the computational theory of the mind, in which information and computation reside in patterns of data and in relations of logic that are independent of the physical medium that carries them. 

Read More

consensual hallucination

The term "consensual hallucination" is Gibson's (from Neuromancer), who is generally credited with coining the term Cyberspace. "What seems so alluring about the half-formed promise of VR technologies is the ideal of a world of one's own that one can share with others through consensus but that one can enter or leave at will ... that brings with it a certain guarantee of pleasure without danger." (E. Grosz, Anybody) 

Read More

cyborg

Is the cyborg an improved hybrid species that has the capacity to be humanity's evolutionary successor? This is the starting point for Manuel DeLanda's evocation of future "robot historians" writing the history of " War in the Age of Intelligent Machines." Warfare has been the primary arena for the technological development of cybernetics, but the cyborg has become a figure that brings toget her science fiction and technology in unexpected combinations. If the Terminator and Robocop exemplify some of the issues of aggression for a masculine image of the cyborg in the contemporary imagination, the concept has been developed in a feminist perspective as well. 

Read More

electronic media

"After three thousand years of explosion, by means of fragmentary and mechanical technologies, the Western world is imploding. During the mechanical ages we had extended our bodies in space. Today, after more than a century of electronic technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both time and space as far as our planet is concerned." (Marshall McLuahan, Understanding Media.) 

Read More

experimental

"The word experimental is apt, providing it is understood not as descriptive of an act to be laterjudged in terms of success and failure, but simply as of an act the outcome of which is unknown." John Cage, Silence, p.13.

Would this characterization apply to scientific experiment? 

Read More

fordism

Ford's factories required a disciplined and deskilled workforce, willing and able to perform repetitive tasks on the assembly line. F. W. Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management published in 1911 had already described how labor productivity could be radically increased by breaking down each labor process into component motions and organizing them according to rigorous standards of time and motion. 

Read More

instrumentality

At the beginning of its history, philosophy separates tekhné from épistémé, a distinction that had not yet been made in Homeric times. The separation is determined by a political context, one in which the philosopher accuses the Sophist of instrumentalizing the logos as rhetoric and logography, that is, as both instrument of power and renunciation of knowledge. (ref to Francois Châtelet, Platon, in Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, p.1) (is this a reference to Plato's Phaedrus?) 

Read More

intelligent building

The first thing an intelligent building will learn is your credit card number.
In the opening pages of Ubik, written in 1969 Phillip Dick brilliantly describes a battle between a down and out protagonist and his apartment building, called a conapt. Early one hungover morning, Joe Chip hears the knock of unexpected guests at the door. After verifying that they are not rent robots or creditors, he tries to clean up before letting them in.

Read More

machinic phylum

"In order to adequately understand their apparently idiosyncratic contributions... riddled with jargon and with a mysteriously ineffable systematicity..." (E. Grosz)

Describing the development of weapons such as the saber or the sword, Deleuze and Guattari relate how metallurgy follows variations in materials and their qualities (spatio-temporal haecceities) and transforms them into features (traits of expression) such as hardness, sharpness and finish.

"We may speak of a machinic phylum or technological lineage, wherever we find a constellation of singularities , prolongable by certain operations, which converge, and make the operations converge, upon one or several assignable traits of expresssion" ..."Each phylum has its own singularities and operations...which determine the relation of desire to the technical element."...

"We will call an assemblage every constellation of singularities and traits deducted from the flow of matter-movement. The assemblages cut the phylum up into distinct, differentiated lineages, at the same time as the machinic phylum cuts accross them all." (Thousand Plateaus, p. 406) Examples of these assemblages include the nomads' invention of the man-horse-bow assemblage.

"The machinic phylum is materiality, natural or artificial, and both simultaneously; it is matter in movement, in flux, in variation, matter as a conveyor of singularities and traits of expression...This matter flow can only be followed. The artisan is one who is determined to follow a flow of matter as pure productivity. The artisan is the itinerant, the ambulant. His work is a legwork. To follow the flow of matter...is intuition in action." (p.409) (this is neither nomadic nor sedentary, but in contact with both) -- minor science.

"Why is the machinic phylum, the flow of matter, essentially metallic, or metallurgical?" (p 410) "Metallurgy is the consciousness or thought of the matter-flow...The machinic phylum is metallurgical, or at least has a metallic head, as its itinerant probe-head or guidance device." In this respect, Deleuze and Guattari follow the trope established by the Futurists and followed by the architectural avant-garde, that described engineers as noble savages at the vanguard of technological innovation, "men of the people without culture or education," endowed with "the gift of mechanical prophecy, the flair for metals." (Marinetti, Le Futurisme, Quoted in Reyner Banham, A Concrete Atlantis, p.204)

According to Manuel de Landa, for Deleuze the machinic phylum is the overall set of self-organizing processes... in which a group of previously disconnected elements suddenly reaches a criticial point in which they begin to "cooperate" to form a higher entity. The notion of a machinic phylum blurs the distinction between organic and non-organic life. Phenomena of self-organization occur whenever a bifurcation takes place in phase space: when a new attractor appears or when the system's attractors mutate in kind.

According to de Landa, Deleuze realized the philosophical implications of trajectories, attractors, and bifurcations in phase space . He emphasized the ontological difference between "actual physical systems" (represented by trajectories in phases space), and "virtual physical systems" represented by attractors and repellors. Although he did not mention bifurcations by name, he explored the idea that special events could produce "an emission of singularities", that is, the sudden creation of a set of attractors and repellors. Thus in addition to "actual machines", there are two layers of "virtual machines" . The world of attractors (the first layer) defines the long-term tendencies of reality. The world of bifurcations modifies those tendencies and represents the source of creativity and variability in nature. (see de Landa p. 236 and Deleuze Logic of Sense)

non-linearity

In dynamical terms, such as in the study of chaos, a non-linear situtation is one where the result is not proportional to the cause. For instance "the straw that broke the camel's back" (eg. the elastic/plastic limit in building structures) introduces non-linearity. Up until that point, deformation had been proportional to load. Suddenly it loses all proportionality. 

Read More

orrery

orrery

An Orrery is a clocklike object which models the movements of the solar system. The orrery is often referred to as the paradigmatic embodiment of the Newtonian "clockwork"universe. Note that the orrery, like Newtonian time, could conceivably rotate in either direction. What was the origin of "clockwise" motion? Should we see it as one of those bifurcations that could equally have gone either way? Newton believed that from time to time the Creator had to interfere in the course of material processes in order to secure the normal progress against disturbances. Leibniz mocked this idea by asking him whether God had produced an imperfect mechanism

Read More

Paradigm

The concept of scientific paradigms was given currency by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (1962) Kuhn's concept of paradigm applies both to a body of ideas, theories, etc. -- a "worldview"-- and to the social organization of science in which it appears. There are two aspects to scientific paradigms. Paradigms are shared constellations of belief (a disciplinary matrix) and they are also models or examples. 

Read More