Seminar: Co-evolutionary Perspectives

April 23rd, 2016

How can we think beyond categorical distinctions between humans, culture, technology, and nature?

On the Technosphere

Viewed from a co-evolutionary perspective, categorical distinctions between humans, culture, technology, and nature disappear. Instead we have to focus on the multiple interactions and relations between nodes within networks, if we want to understand the past, present, and future of our constructed world.

Rather than seeing the technosphere as the final product of human history, this seminar explores instead its deep evolutionary roots. In order to do so, it examines the set of constructive processes that have defined the relationships between organisms and their environments since the dawn of evolution. It introduces and integrates regulatory network and niche construction perspectives in order to examine how evolutionary dynamics explain the path-dependent nature of evolutionary change, the dynamics of evolutionary innovation, and the expansion of inheritance systems.

The technosphere is not just the entirety of the material and societal components of the global technologically based system. In addition, it is a space in which humanity’s metabolism with its terrestrial environment takes place, in an interactive process through which the environment is continually transformed by human labor, economic conditions, and epistemic components. Technology, in this view, is an integral part of these deep evolutionary processes, both as a product and as an evolutionary actor in its own right. Only when conceiving the technosphere as created through human transformation of multiple environments can we hope to grasp its co-evolutionary nature, and therefore its potentiality. Within a co-evolutionary perspective, in short, the technosphere could become autonomous, but as actors within it, as the subjects whose knowledge it represents, we can still come to know and possibly change it.

This seminar will explore more deeply the real mental and material action of humanity in nature: that is, the interactions between humans, plants, animals, and places that have sustained human populations for long periods, and which are still present in our world today. It will identify mental, artifactual, aesthetic, and ecological phenomena that illuminate the processes and experiences of co-evolution in the hope of amplifying our analysis of the technosphere today.