Indeterminacy in the 21st Century, conference introduction speech, Indeterminate Futures

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther


‘Indeterminate futures’ refers to a bifurcation in the western capitalist concept of time, where time is seen as progressive and chronarchic – an extensive sequence of identical moments in which every unit of time is exactly the same as the one before and the one after, marching indomitably towards the future. Walter Benjamin called such industrial, linear time ‘homogenous and empty’ (Benjamin 1992). Norbert Wiener saw early computation as liberating heterogeneous, multiplicitous or ‘vitalist’ time (Wiener 1950), however, the nature and increasing levels of computational complexity also meant the increased need for determination (or over-determination), which in turn led to the creation of what we could call ‘future from structure’.

Future from structure turns possibility into probability, and probability into a mathematico-logical necessity. But there is more to algorithms than pre-programmed automated, sequence- and logic-locked procedures. When programmes pass into code and code passes into algorithms, and these algorithms create new algorithms, a one-sided view of automation, in the sense of logic-locked sequence that always produces the same output from the same input, becomes untenable. The situation we find ourselves in 2020, which, due to the pandemic, has placed renewed emphasis on human fragility and brought to the fore the fundamental unreliability of the weak-link logic of capitalist abstraction (where solutions are often relegated to an imagined future that is supposed to ‘naturally’ follow the ‘progressive’ arc of the present) is one that requires a re-examination of technologically re-enforced over-determination, however also algorithmic indeterminacy, artificial and living-organism plasticity, and perceptions of emergence and complexity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2020
EventIndeterminate Futures / The Future of Indeterminacy - University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Nov 202015 Nov 2020


ConferenceIndeterminate Futures / The Future of Indeterminacy
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'Indeterminacy in the 21st Century, conference introduction speech, Indeterminate Futures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this