“The identity of any real entity must be accounted for by a process, the process that produced that entity […] When it comes to social science the idea is the same: families, institutional organizations, cities, nation states are all real entities that are the product of specific historical processes which created them and those that maintain them.” -DeLanda
One high school summer vacation, I lost a few hot Florida afternoons devouring a copy of Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. He called this “dangerous idea” a universal acid that would burn through any container imposed on it and would destroy and reform everything in its wake. The container of biology would not hold this fundamental idea- that there is no need for essences; that simple mechanisms can create evident complexity; that the category does not necessarily precede the instance.
That book began to formalize an idea that I was holding in separate silos:
- The broadly understood Turing thesis that a machine could calculate without “knowing how to calculate.” (Infamous example: cellular automata)
- Herbert A. Simon was quickly becoming a major influence in my view of organizations, wherein artifacts and interfaces were crystallized habits/memory. (Influenced my decision to go to Carnegie Mellon, and what I studied when I got there).
- My readings into Pierce and the Pragmatists in college, and their epistemological methods.
- The idea of the artificial as a subset of (instead of antithesis to) the natural.
- The Dennett/Hofstadter “Mind’s I” view of the self as a “narrative center of gravity” (that is, as a fiction that is immensely useful). Heterophenomenology.
- The general idea of Wittgenstein’s ladder, the useful fiction/abstraction, etc.
- The flavors of agency and intelligence of people, machines, animals, and organizations
- Later: the idea of an “ecological perspective” of a system
- Later: DeLanda’s perspective; Bogost’s critical perspective “Unit Operations”
It was not necessarily a deliberate project for me (or else maybe I’d have worked it all out much sooner, I’d think). I sketched out my trajectory from 10,000 feet here six months ago.
I’ve almost been writing here for a year. Isn’t that odd.