The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts
Exploring how computers have changed society. This looks at how the idea of nature as a self-regulating ecosystem is a machine fantasy.
A series of films exploring the idea that we have been colonised by the machines we have built. Although we don't realise it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers.
This is the story of how our modern scientific idea of nature, the self-regulating ecosystem, is actually a machine fantasy. It has little to do with the real complexity of nature. It is based on cybernetic ideas that were projected on to nature in the 1950s by ambitious scientists. A static machine theory of order that sees humans, and everything else on the planet, as components - cogs - in a system.
But in an age disillusioned with politics, the self-regulating ecosystem has become the model for utopian ideas of human 'self-organizing networks' - dreams of new ways of organising societies without leaders, as in the Facebook and Twitter revolutions, and in global visions of connectivity like the Gaia theory.
This powerful idea emerged out of the hippie communes in America in the 1960s, and from counterculture computer scientists who believed that global webs of computers could liberate the world.
But, at the very moment this was happening, the science of ecology discovered that the theory of the self-regulating ecosystem wasn't true. Instead they found that nature was really dynamic and constantly changing in unpredictable ways. But the dream of the self-organizing network had by now captured our imaginations - because it offered an alternative to the dangerous and discredited ideas of politics.