The book centres on the following speculative question: if in the philosophical tradition, the concept of contingency is always related to the laws of nature, then in what way can we understand contingency in related to technical systems? The book situates the concept of recursivity as a break from the Cartesian mechanism and the drive of system construction; it elaborates on the necessity of contingency in such epistemological rupture where nature ends and system emerges. In this development, we see how German idealism is precursor to cybernetics, and the Anthropocene and Noosphere (Teilhard de Chardin) point toward the realization of a gigantic cybernetic system, which lead us back to the question of freedom. It questions the concept of absolute contingency (Meillassoux) and proposes a cosmotechnical pluralism. Engaging with modern and contemporary European philosophy as well as Chinese thought through the mediation of Needham, this book refers to cybernetics, mathematics, artificial intelligence and inhumanism.
Recursivity and Contingency is simply an outstanding philosophical treatise on cybernetics that re-opens the all-too human image of technology today. Alongside a zealous re-situating of system theory within philosophies of nature, Hui boldly defies current technocratic aspirations towards totalizing and deterministic systems with a metaphysical commitment to re-envision the relation with the inhuman. Cosmotechnical perspectives, alter-cosmologies, and techno-diversity are here part of human-machine genesis that promises to finally re-situate technology in various cosmic realities.
Yuk Hui is the author of On the Existence of Digital Objects (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) and The Question Concerning Technology in China. An Essay in Cosmotechnics (Urbanomic, 2017).