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On September 6-7 we will host a two-day symposium devoted to the work of the Ontogenetics Process Group on extra-algorithmic life.

Detail Summary
Date Start 6 September 2018 End 7 September 2018

The symposium is animated by the growing consensus in the sciences and the humanities that the living world in all its modes—biological, semiotic, economic, affective, social, etc.—escapes finite schema of description. Based on a deep and sustained engagement with biological, physical, and computational sciences, operating in conjunction with anthropological, philosophical, and artistic modes of inquiry, researchers examine how the reigning models of complexity need to be paired with non-algorithmic modes of inquiry in order to better express the processual and emergent unfolding of living worlds. It is in an effort to bring this shared perspective into sharp focus that the symposium pays special attention to the rich conceptual terrain shared by the biological sciences, mathematics, computer science, art-based research, and the theoretical humanities.

Over the course of the symposium participants weigh in on concepts from the complexity sciences and biology (e.g., autocatalytic sets, random Boolean networks, gene regulatory networks, niche construction, developmental complexity, epigenetics) in order to find common ground with a variety of notions in the theoretical humanities and social sciences that have been marshaled to account for the motors of dynamic change (e.g., ontogenesis, individuation, concrescence, different/citation, strong and weak emergence). In an effort to forge this common ground, the work of Alfred North Whitehead will be a particularly powerful lure for us moving forward. In The Concept of Nature, Whitehead famously resisted the modern temptation to bifurcate nature into mental and physical “stuff” by placing “everything in the same boat, to sink or swim together”. Similarly, this symposium wishes to put algorithmic and non-algorithmic “stuff” into the “same boat,” without reducing one to the other.

Programme panels:

Panel 1: De-constructing Life and New Beginnings

Gaymon Bennett (Arizona State University): “Biotechnology After the Analytic of Finitude”

Cary Wolfe (Rice University): “(Auto)immunities”

Helga Wild-Damiris (Independent Researcher): “Serres and Virno on Beginnings”

Panel 2: Accommodating Monsters: Between Mathematics and Neoliberal Science

Sha Xin Wei in absentia (Arizona State University): “The Square Root of Negative One is Imaginary”

Giuseppe Longo (École normale supérieure): "Complexity, Information and Diversity, in Science and in Democracy"

Panel 3: From Cinema to Modeling: Complexity at the Intersection of Biology and Entertainment

Patricia Pisters (University of Amsterdam, IAS): "Film as Complex Temporal Object"

Adam Nocek (Arizona State University, IAS): “On the Perceptual Economies of Biological Knowledge”

Panel 4: Life Outside of Physics?

Stuart Kauffman (Santa Fe Institute): “A World Beyond Physics”

Wim Hordijk (Independent Researcher, IAS): “Evolution: Limited & Predictable or Unbounded & Lawless?”

Giuseppe Longo (École normale supérieure): "What is Randomness?"

Scientific Lead

Adam Nocek, IAS Visiting Researcher