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Benjamin Bratton

What is Planetary Scale Computation For?: Astronomy, Population, Cosmopolities

The concept of “climate change” is an epistemological accomplishment of planetary scale computation. Without the mega-apparatuses of sensing, calculation, and simulation that is the basis of climate science, the relation between the invisible ubiquity of CO2 and millennium-long arc of mean temperature could not be inferred. In 2019, the Event Horizon telescope array stretched across the surface of Earth to form the largest terrestrial camera aperture ever and was able to “photograph” the M89 black hole, an image assembled from terabytes of data and rendered into a human-legible figure. What is the link and what is the lesson? Both demonstrate how it is that a planet may instrumentalize itself such that it can sense, model, simulate and predict its own condition and its own surroundings. This is what planetary scale computation is for; this is its positive capacity as a mechanism of public reason and collective self-composition. Instead of the surveillance of over-individuated humans, endlessly congratulated for their unique desires, the political and philosophical challenges of planetarity demonstrate another future of planetary scale computation, of the cloud, of artificial intelligence and of the tightly-bound evolutionary arc of human prospection and its technical milieu. This alternative both depends upon other philosophical invocations of “planetarity” and also challenges their overconfidence in the liberatory superiority of literacy over numeracy, symbolization over calculation, experience over abstraction. 
Benjamin Bratton is a social theorist whose work spans Architecture, Computer Science and the Philosophy of Technology. He is a Professor for Visual Arts and Director of the Center for Design and Geopolitics (University of California, San Diego).

The lecture will be broadcasted live via Zoom and YouTube and available afterwards via YouTube.

Lecture series in cooperation with the Department of Art History at University of Siegen

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