Orit Halpern, Assistant Professor at the New School, will present on MIT's legendary Architecture Machine Group, from a chapter of her forthcoming book Strange Agency: A History of Post-War Intelligence.
Linking together a history of intelligence and agency in the cognitive, neuro, and social sciences with art history and cultural history, Strange Agency will detail how collectivities, from insect communities to human crowds, went from being defined as dangerous, paranoid, and Fascist or Communist, to being a resource, the very site of political possibility, artistic potential, and financial benefit, a medium to be “sourced” as in “crowd sourcing”. I trace how entities once described as stupid, dangerous, irrational and undemocratic became intelligent, networked, and valuable.
At stake in these conversations about the future of intelligence was whether societies would be understood and governed as interconnected systems of co-dependent agents, or whether they would be viewed as a collection of individuals making choices, whose freedom had to be defended. Ideals of collectivity, particularly as espoused by the counter-culture and the emerging computational, financial, and cognitive sciences, did not automatically lend themselves to a faith in socialism or state planning however. Self-organization, autopoiesis, and networks preoccupied the political and scientific imaginations of artists, economists, psychologists and socio-biologists even as they simultaneously disavowed ideas of Enlightenment reason and liberal choice and agency. This seemingly contradictory discourse continues to drive the introduction of computation into our daily lives and to inform our ideas about clouds, crowds, political agents, and markets.