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Bruno Latour Tracks Down Gaia (lareviewofbooks.org)
16 points by Hooke 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 5 comments

Off topic, but I just learned about Actor-network theory, and his work, earlier tonight. I love frameworks or models that put their attention on the edges instead of the nodes. Interesting stuff to check out if you're interesting in graphs/networks.


Man, I had a lecture series on this (Cambridge undergrad geography). It seemed like complete bunk. The lecturer seemed to be arguing that inanimate objects were alive. The other students seemed convinced, though.

I also think it's bunk, but I think the alive-inanimate-objects thing is really just a symptom. It's not his idea - rather Spinoza's, and in Spinoza's hands, is fairly sensible. Lautour's work is a lot of stuff like that - fairly commonplace* philosophy ideas, said in the most controversial way possible, rebranded as his own.

*Commonplace philosophy ideas occupy a similar kind of remove to common-sense realism as set theory, so they tend to be the sort of things that sound kinda crazy until you dig in.

While Lovelock himself distances himself from any interpretations of Gaia as either creationist (as in the Earth was "created" to be perfectly balanced) or that the Earth is literally alive (like the planet in the book/movie "Solaris"), it is clear that both interpretations are easy misconceptions for people to make, and are in part responsible for the popularity of the "Gaia Hypothesis" in popular culture.

The actual case it is just turns out that a set of lots of independently evolving organisms just happen to have emergent properties of stability as a system. That's interesting to a degree, but using a hypothesis of the Earth as a single organism is not the most helpful way to get that idea across.

I have to recommend "Aramis, or the Love of Technology" by Bruno Latour. It's an account of the development of a failed personal mass transit system that's both brilliant and very beautiful.

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