We need to see Virus as a language we must speak. Only by drawing on viral principles—viruses are infections through information, viruses can only be understood through percentages and exponentials, and how viruses are sometimes like zombies from outer space—can the core dynamics of our 21st century Virus Crisis be understood. Our crisis isn’t just biological, it is also about ideas and how they propagate through, for example, digitally magnified irrational conspiracy theories. Viruses in biology, in living culture, and in the digital all follow the same basic principles, but there are crucial differences, especially when it comes to agency. Biological viruses have evolved through chance and necessity, variation and selection, to be capable of responding to their environment. Mutations, antigenic drifts and shifts, and epigenetic forces all produce variations of viruses and those that propagate better succeed their predecessors. No agency is involved, so saying SARS-CoV-2 “wants” anything is nonsense, yet it certainly manifests goal-directedness toward surviving and evolving. Viral ideas and digital viruses also lack agency but they are not the product of blind evolution but of humans and our works, as engineered biological viruses are. Organisms such as ourselves have evolved with self-organizing complexity and agency, creating social systems (including the rapidly expanding digital realm). Why evolution produces goal-directed systems of these types is an important mystery. Understanding as much as we can about it, and other aspects of viral phenomena and their environments, is crucial. Speaking Virus is not just about learning how these different realms work, it is about the role of human and other agency and choosing to cooperate with the viral and controlling our contributions to it, so humans can help make ourselves and our environments more resilient, giving us a chance to survive, perhaps even thrive.
About the speaker
Chris Hables Gray lives in Santa Cruz, California. Author of Postmodern War, Cyborg Citizen, and Peace, War and Computers, he is also the co-editor (with his two dear colleagues Steven Mentor and Heidi Figueroa-Sarriera) of The Cyborg Handbook and Modified: Living as a Cyborg. He has also written or co-written several hundred peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in a dozen academic disciplines and fields, and just as many works of journalism and fiction. An activist, gardener, and teacher (when he needs the money), he aspires to finish his books-in-progress on evolution, violence, information theory and California identity. And to get a cat.
The CLEA seminars are taking place simultaneously at the VUB campus in Etterbeek, Brussels, and online (via Zoom) and are open to everyone interested!
When. Friday May 5, 2023 from 14:00 until 16:00h
Where. VUB campus Etterbeek, room D.1.07.
Online. You can follow the seminar online via Zoom. You may need a Meeting ID and passcode to enter.
Zoom link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82757798426?pwd=em9sQlJDVjJYTEFRNk01dEJLWGxGUT09 Meeting ID: 827 5779 8426Passcode: 122127
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Video of the seminar
This seminar was supported by the John Templeton Foundation through the grant ID61733 The Origins of Goal-Directedness.