How Technology Shapes Science

Context: Science of science workshop: discovery & inequality

The data and computational tools in use are not only transforming the field, they are recursively shaping the radiative speciation of scientific practice as their own transmission medium.

We rarely notice just how profoundly trajectories in science and technology are a reflexive function of the extended phenotype that these information and communications systems manifest. Nor is it immediately or unproblematically apparent that just as technological complexity represents the range of expressive possibilities in scientific paradigms – science, scientists and technologists everywhere also represent the extended phenotype of the encoded or adaptively self-encoding signal that technology represents.

This kind of globally-recursive bootstrap haunts complexity science (and much more besides). The systems of language and mathematics are indefinitely-extensible yet find as a consequence that they are unable to render the closure and certainty that remains axiomatic to even the possibility of institutional continuity and sustainable organisational self-assembly. In this sense, science represents an unlockable door, of sorts, in that it can only ever exist as an abstraction within the hyper-inflating systems of language, technology and symbolic self-representation that it itself asserts.

It is really quite a wonderful problem to have, though, and I expect that science will eventually converge upon logics that recognise and acknowledge the generative potential of such endemic and paradoxical discontinuity. This is equivalent to asserting that it is precisely the absence of unified or unifying principles or practices that indicates what shape (and consequence) such a binding principle or practice must embody.

The accelerating speciation of the sciences generally renders as opaque the gestalt structure and counter-intuitively unifying ontological topology of their own technological context.

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