“This seminar will focus on two works in progress: “Why the Disunity of Cybernetics Matters to the History of the Human Sciences in the United States, 1940-1980” (which is an extension of research in Professor Kline’s book book Cybernetics Moment); and “Inventing an Analog Past and a Digital Future in Computing” (which is a draft of a chapter on a book in progress on the history of digitalization). The seminar will tie these two papers together under the rubric of “disunity of science” in order to argue that the multiple interpretations of cybernetics and the term “digital” are important to understanding their past (and present and future).
The paper on cybernetics discusses disunity in regard to first-order cybernetics (in the work of such figures as Karl Deutsch in political science, George Miller in psychology and Herbert Simon in management science) and the revision of the field known as second-order cybernetics (in the work of Gregory Bateson in anthropology, who crossed this boundary.)
The second paper discusses why the venerable words analog and digital were appropriated by computer builders in the 1940s, what alternatives were proposed, how they became paired keywords, why closure occurred so quickly in the U.S., the different ways in which digital and analog engineering cultures interpreted the terms. The paper also speculates on the reasons why the concerns raised at the 1950 Macy conference — that the terms were vague and that analog was not the logical opposite of digital — were ignored.”
When Ken says nonsense like “Us knowledge-institution types may prove more adaptable than he thinks” he kind of gives the game away but still worth a read.
“I think Land really was on to something when he pushed geotrauma to its cosmic limit, where “the runaway becoming of such infinite plasticity that nature warps and dissolves before it…” (627) The very interesting writing of Reza Negarastani branches off here. The Land of the noughts pushed this very far: everything since the big bang exploded into subatomic particles has been a huge mistake, each organizational form arising, from atoms to molecules to cells to eukaryotes to vertebrates to human social forms is a reaction to the trauma spilling out of the previous level of organization. A list to which one could add the trauma of the Anthropocene. “Runaway geosmear through seismo-climactic linkage…. Ice-sheet melt meets sea-floor lift.” (483) Positive feedback loops provoke geotrauma, and have done so repeatedly. Land is precociously aware of where this is headed. Or he was, before some less interesting turns distracted this knight of the death drive.”
rest @ http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3284-on-nick-land
“In January 1951, R. S. Hunt–a British technical editor and former chemist without any university degree or diploma–sent a manuscript titled “Two Kinds of Work” to the mathematician Norbert Wiener, who did not read it. Hunt’s manuscript promises to “put metaphysics within the scope of physics.” And it claims to do so by making “such quantities as beauty, virtue and happiness,” as well as all manual and intellectual labor tasks, intelligible as electronic circuits. In other words, Hunt’s text anticipates the wildest fantasies of digital culture and the concepts of affective and immaterial labour associated with post-Fordism.
“Two Kinds of Work” is centred on a concept that Hunt names “G-energy.” This force, Hunt argues, “defies the second law of thermodynamics” by moving material systems from less to more probable states. In other words, it represents all processes that give form or pattern. The ‘discovery’ of G-energy, Hunt insists, necessitates a radical new ontology; humans, nonhuman animals, machines, materials, and concepts all hold and transmit G-energy, and are thus connected in networks of exchange. Hunt’s formulation predicts the current methodological formations of matter and bodies as vital networks. But crucially, Hunt’s underlying motivations are not philosophical but economic: G-energy is for him the essence of value, a ‘natural’ phenomenon that is represented by money. It is what employers are really paying for when they think they are paying for time.
By reading “Two Kinds of Work” in the light of current theoretical concerns, this talk identifies historical and conceptual connections between theories of digitality and value.”