The Tortoise and The Hare: Cybernetics, Evolution and Socialism

“History is not a race with a finish line — and if we make it one, it’s a game we will lose. Instead, history ought to be seen as a process of becoming.” — Amelia Davenport
In a new essay published on Cosmonaut, Amelia Davenport brilliantly argues for the relevance of cybernetics to the project of developing a communism that transcends the modernist project.
I would swap out the well-worn vagueness of the appeal to communism with a more Bookchin inspired ‘communalism”, but Davenport’s essay is one of the most concise offerings I have read on the topic in quite some time. Do read here.
Some choice excerpts below:
“Humans have been endowed by the process of evolution with considerable gifts of mental acuity, intuition, and the capacity to reason probabilistically. However, for most of the history of modernity we have blindly followed a reductionist, linear and mechanistic vision of the world that has led us to a precipice. This way of thinking is not universal, but in the process of colonization it has been spread by bullet and boxcar to every government and hegemonic political system on the planet. Our social institutions are incapable of dealing with the complexity of the world they inhabit and often serve only to generate increasing social entropy themselves.”
“[M]eaning itself emerges from the evolutionary process. Evolution selects one organ over another for a reason without any need for representation in language. Meaning is always relative to context and function. It exists as an emergent regulatory mechanism from the relationship between the components of a system… More complex systems like a human being, or more narrowly a human mind, are composed of a nested array of less complex systems that are intelligent at diminishing degrees.”
The framing of viability as meta-goal of living systems is so good:
“By adding the meta-goal of viability, the system is able to generate its own goals. In a viable system, both the output and the health of the system are equally to its teleology. For a system to be healthy it must consider the health of the systems it is embedded in– like the social systems and ecosystems with which all of us must reckon. The goals of a viable system emerge from the system’s interactions with its environment and cannot be set as a priori directives.”
And finally:
“To build a better world we need to build better robots. To build better robots we have to recognize their true purpose: to join us in discovering ours. We need cybernetics: the science of piloting in the storm of life.”

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