Networks as a notion of the world has always existed, but it has become especially heightened with digital networks. Bruno Latour found in networks a “powerful way of rephrasing basic issues of social theory, epistemology, and philosophy”. To define an entity in actor-network theory, one must define its attributes, its network. All the attributes are necessary for any self-contained entity to exist. Latour’s networks also get rid of nature, society, power, and any other notions that were able to exert some sort of control over the development of science.
Joi Ito has a similar approach to science, the anti disciplinary approach. Ito imagines the whole of science as a huge piece of paper in which dots represent the different disciplines and the blank space between them represents “antidisciplines.” In approaching more difficult problems, we should be focusing more in a united science rather than a “mosaic of different disciplines.”
Combining Latour’s networks with Ito’s antidisciplines, we get a model that looks like the following:
What I think is interesting is: if science is a network that consists of nodes and edges, what would it be immersed in? What would the blank space represent? Perhaps the combination of both models allows for a unified conception of science. The differentiation between each of the points implies a connection can still be drawn if it’s not there already.
This is revelatory of the kind of science we will be doing in the future. We will no longer need that many specialists, but synthesists who can draw connections between unlikely concepts. This may seem new in this context, but many science fiction authors have proposed future worlds with people of this character. William Gibson, for instance, introduces the idea of a “cool hunter” in his novel Pattern Recognition. A cool hunter can identify trends before they become popular. Brian Aldiss introduces the “seeker” in An Appearance of Life. A seeker has a combination of a “serendipity factor” and training in other areas.
In other words, I put two and two together in situations where other people were not thinking about addition. I connected. I made wholes greater than parts. Mine was an invaluable profession in a cosmos increasingly full of parts.
- Brian Aldiss, An Appearance of Life
We won’t have to worry about specifics and generating information because we are already doing that. We will need to learn how to read large amounts of data and identify the unlikely connections between the concepts.