Friday, October 28, 2005

The Moment of Complexity

Emerging Network Culture by Mark C. Taylor "At pivotal moments throughout history, technological innovation triggers massive social and cultural transformation..." (more)
Editorial Reviews: Book Description
"The Moment of Complexity is a profoundly original work. In remarkable and insightful ways, Mark Taylor traces an entirely new way to view the evolution of our culture, detailing how information theory and the scientific concept of complexity can be used to understand recent developments in the arts and humanities. This book will ultimately be seen as a classic."-John L. Casti, Santa Fe Institute, author of Gödel: A Life of Logic, the Mind, and Mathematics
The science of complexity accounts for that inscrutable mix of chaos and order that governs our natural world. Complexity explains how networks emerge and function, how species organize into ecosystems, how stars form into galaxies, and how just a few sequences of DNA can account for so many different life forms. Recently, the idea of complexity has taken the worlds of business and politics by storm. The concept is used to account for phenomena as varied as the behavior of the stock market, the response of voting populations, and the effects of risk management. Even Disney has used complexity theory to manage crowd control at its theme parks.Given the startling development of new information technologies, we now live in a moment of unprecedented complexity, an era in which change occurs faster than our ability to comprehend it.
With The Moment of Complexity, Mark C. Taylor offers a timely map for this unfamiliar terrain opening in our midst, unfolding an original philosophy through a remarkable synthesis of science and culture. According to Taylor, complexity is not just a breakthrough scientific concept, but the defining quality of the post-Cold War era. The flux of digital currents swirling around us, he argues, has created a new network culture with its own distinctive logic and dynamic.Drawing on resources from information theory and evolutionary biology, Taylor explains the operation of complex adaptive systems in social and cultural processes and captures a whole new zeitgeist in the making. To appreciate the significance of our emerging network culture, he claims, we need not only to understand contemporary scientific and technological transformations, but also to explore the subtle influences of art, architecture, philosophy, religion, and higher education. The Moment of Complexity, then, is a remarkable work of cultural analysis on a scale rarely seen today. To follow its trajectory is to learn how we arrived at this critical moment in our culture, and to know where we might head in the twenty-first century.
Spotlight Reviews: Write an online review and share your thoughts
Theory of Everything, May 7, 2002 Reviewer: Steev Hise
Mark C. Taylor is among those very rare writers and thinkers who are able to take many disparate disciplines of knowledge and perform a synthesis which creates wisdom. With this book it's evident that Taylor has been thinking about certain heady concepts for at least all of his adult life. Indeed, I've also read an earlier work of his, "Hiding," that touches on some of the same ideas. But with Complexity he has honed his thinking and added even more contributing topics, all zeroing in to our current turbulent moment of history. Taylor's is personal and professional, and it's been developing since the 1960s. It includes a sometimes dizzying array of topics and references to other thinkers, including artificial life, chaos theory, information theory, evolution, semiotics, cultural studies, Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Lamarck, the history of the modern university, cybernetics, emergent phenomena, fashion, intellectual property... and more!
Taylor somehow manages to weave a coherent and compelling tapestry out of all these threads, with results I can only describe as profound and inspirational. By looking at recent history and its social upheavals through a lens informed by the latest ideas in these fields, he arrives at a very convincing and intriguing picture of the fundamentally different sort of world we are seeing develop around us right now. Beside the wise observation and intelligent synthesis, though, he also does something else that's very rare with these sorts of projects: he attempts to explain his theory in practice.

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