February 14, 2019 ―
February 16, 2019

The Third Annual Meeting of the Post-Human Network Symposium: Cybernetics and its Legacies

February 14-16, 2019 @ Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

“Overcoming the Cybernetic worldview while re-envisioning Post-humanism and Sustainability: Insights from Quantum Physics and finance for alternate economies- ecologies”

Speaker: Dr. Niklas Wild-Damiris


Heidegger was prescient arguing that philosophy in the form of metaphysics has culminated and ended in technology understood as cybernetics. Metaphysics is characterized by its generalizing, universalizing concepts. Cybernetics is distinguished by an equally totalizing move: its notions of communication and control applied systematically to animals, humans and machines. “Post-humanism” is one of the many unintended consequences of cybernetics. It does not overcome the paradigm as it claims, but ironically repeats its gesture: it runs roughshod over subtle differences of subject, object, animate, inanimate, nature, culture treating them as dichotomies, instead of as phases in a process of trans-individuation. “Sustainability” is a related concern that emerged as a response to the growing tension between ‘ecology’ and ‘economy’, which it treats ambivalently, leaving us in the dark as to what is sustainable in a world increasingly ‘out of control’.

As Cybernetics became, starting in the 1930’s, both the dominant ideology and meta-science of industrial capitalism, it found an intellectual rival in the then emerging quantum physics. Alas, the latter’s nascent worldview, was counter-intuitive, allowing cybernetics to coopt the new physics’ insights, by enlisting its practitioners to its causes: first to help build an atom bomb, and more recently to design financial derivatives, which Warren Buffett has aptly described as ‘weapons of mass destruction”!

Now well into the second decade of the 21st century, we still find ourselves to be ‘willing slaves of capital’, as F. Lordon has argued; yet inequality is only getting worse as T. Piketty has documented. And to add insult to injury the promise of social media has been hijacked by the companies who currently control the Internet instituting ‘surveillance capitalism’, as S. Zuboff puts it, rather than a knowledge economy.

Given this rather grim state of affairs, I ask: Could insights from the controversial but gaining in acceptance Quantum Physics Worldview help us change our thinking and attitude toward the world? I will answer this question in the affirmative by arguing that the quantum is not weird; it appears so only because we interpret it through entrenched cybernetic categories like ‘information’, ‘feedback’, ‘observation’ ‘data-base’, which become problematic in a world

characterized by indeterminacy, negative probabilities, non-locality and measurement effects. Furthermore, this world is not confined to the small as is often claimed.

I will conclude my talk by proposing we institute a new ecologically attuned economic practice based on finance approached as a quantum phenomenon! Such an endeavor presupposes that those who will participate in it ‘have skin in the game’ and their aim is not to discount the future, but to enable it by facing courageously its indeterminacy and the freedom it affords.

Short Speaker Bio:

Niklas Wild Damiris is a theoretical physicist turned economic theorist. He lived in Silicon Valley for over 25 years working as consulting research scientist to well known think tanks there: Xerox PARC, Apple ATG, IBM Almaden Research Center. He participated in a few start-ups no longer extant: “Pliant”, “Capitalizing Communities” and “Quantum-ly”. He was for a while in the periphery of the group whose members later became known as the “Paypal Mafia”. He also was a visiting scholar and occasional lecturer at Stanford University for many years.

Recently, he left the Bay Area to return to the East Coast where he went to school, and can be closer to Europe where there is growing interest in his work re-envisioning monetary and financialized economies with the help of insights from quantum field theory.