Lecture on Biological determinism:

0) Recent research illuminating the myth of “race”


1) The biological basis of human culture


2) Morton and Broca: examples from the history of biological determinism



Note that those two modernist examples (Morton and Broca) were attempts to establish separate racial categories – the modernist theme (“trope”) of establishing control through linear order. In the postmodern era, biological determinism takes on a very different look: it is more diffuse, flexible, “customer specific.” The Film GATTACA shows us how pervasive such a system could be, and how harmful such self-fulfilling prophecies are to everyone.


Questions on Kelly ch 1-2

1)      pp. 2-3 Contrast the “logic of Bios” with the “logic of Technos.” How have the two overlapped in the past? How are they converging in the future?

2)      Pp. 3-4 If the technologies of the future are artificial, why does Kelly call them “vivisystems?” Why look to nature for the economic and engineering paradigms of the future?

3)      Pp. 5-6 What is the significance of Kelly’s anecdote about the temperature of the interior of the hive? Of bee swarms?

4)      P. 7 Why not just conclude that the queen, at the top of the hierarchy, directs the swarm activity? If the queen is not in charge, then who is?

5)      P. 7 Since the queen is not actually commanding the hive, there is no reason to call that bee a “queen.” Using an Social Constructivist analysis, explain why we might have come to use that term (hint: the answer is nowhere in this book).

6)      Pp. 8-9 What is Loren Carpenter’s innovation in human-computer interface (HCI) design, and how does it work? 

7)      Pp.10-11 What is the difference between collective control in Loren Carpenter’s HCI and a bird flock? What is meant by “the flock is more than the sum of the birds?”

8)      Pp. 11-12 What did Wheeler mean by “emergent properties?” What did Morgan mean when he quoted Browning? How is emergence exemplified by the memory span of a hive? 

9)      Pp.13-14 What does Kelly mean by “you can search a bee forever… and you will never find a hive?” pp. 16-17 How does this concept apply to the human mind? 

10)  Pp. 18-19 How might an emergent model of the mind improve computing?

11)  Pp. 20-21 How do simple physical systems create the conditions for emergent collective behavior? 21-22 What is the difference between the traditional mechanical approach to “moreness” and that of swarm systems? What other terms are synonyms for swarms?

12)  Pp. 22-23 What are the benefits of swarm systems? (Try to explain in your own words, don’t just read the text).

13)  Pp. 23-24 What are the disadvantages of swarm systems? (Try to explain in your own words, don’t just read the text).

14)  Pp. 24-25 How can we summarize the trade-offs between linear systems and swarm systems?

15)  Pp. 25 Compare the diagram of the Atom as cultural icon of modernity. What is a comparable icon for postmodernity? Contrast this semiotic analysis with a materialist analysis.

16)  Pp. 26-27 How does Kelly’s rhetoric conflate nature, technology, and society such that a free market economy is the only “natural” choice?

17)  Pp. 27-28 In what ways is “network logic” counter-intuitive?