A really interesting comment from Hypnosifl on my recent post “AI is Good Actually”:
In physical theories of dynamical systems there is the notion of “attractors” in the space of possible configurations of the system (the system’s ‘phase space’), where these attractors aren’t due to some external teleological force but just due to mathematical consequences of the system’s own internal dynamics. These sorts of attractors could exist in far more complex systems than the ones analyzed in physics; for example, in biology there are lots of examples of convergent evolution, where species living in similar ecological niches evolve similar forms or behaviors independently. So to me it seems premature to make any strong judgments about the degree of contingency vs. necessity in social formations, or to rule out hypotheses like Marx’s that assume a fair amount of determinism when one looks at sufficiently broad types of historical changes. Steven Jay Gould mused about “replaying life’s tape” with some small alterations starting from the evolutionary distant past, and wondering how different such a replay would turn out — we could ask similar questions about human history, and since we can’t actually do such an experiment, we can’t be justified in putting any great confidence in whether such replays would be broadly similar as Marx and Engels assumed, or would show more contingency as implied by Althusser’s ideas.
Even if the ultimate truth is that there is a large amount of necessity in certain historical changes, including possible future ones that take us beyond capitalism, we can’t know in advance what trends and potentialities in the present will be most important in bringing about such changes, so we can’t rely on any pre-given formulas for how best to accelerate them. Something similar would be true for any creative intelligence trying to solve a problem whose solution it doesn’t yet know, even an AI whose internal workings are ultimately completely deterministic. I haven’t read Intelligence & Spirit yet but I think this lack of relying on fixed formulas of understanding, the need for intuitive groping at potentials that are sensed but not yet fully named or understood, could be one way of reading the Negarestani quotes in the post — someone correct me if this reading is incompatible with other things he says in the book.
I’d like to drag this out from the comment section and leave it open to discussion if anyone has anything they’d like to add. I fear much of this may go beyond my areas of expertise, but I am curious to hear others’ thoughts — particularly Reza’s, if you read this, my dude!