September 6–7, 2018
9:00 am

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Institute for Advanced Study (IAS)
Oude Turfmarkt 147
1012 GC Amsterdam,
The Netherlands


Life Beyond the Algorithm, Symposium

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.