The Moment of Complexity

Yesterday I stopped by Avenue Books in the Elmwood, another independent bookseller unable to withstand the Borders/Barnes beast, and found a book I hadn't heard of, The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture by Mark C. Taylor. Wow!

I'm only up to page 28, but my head is already swimming. Taylor is a master synthesizer. He grabbed my attention from word one:

We are living in a moment of unprecedented complexity, when things are changing faster than our ability to comprehend them. This is a time of transition betwixt and between a period that seemed more stable and secure and a time when, many people hope, equilibrium will be restored. Awash in a sea of information that seems to have no meaning and bombarded by images and sounds transmitted by new media, many people have lost a sense of direction and purpose and long for security and stability. Stability, secruity, and equilibrium, however, can be deceptive, for they are but momentary eddies in an endlessly complex and turbulent flux. In the world that is emerging, the condition of complexity is as irreducible as it is inescapable. Whle the moment of complexity inevitably generates confusion and uncertainty, today's social, economic, political, and cultural transformations are also creating possibilites for apprehending ourselves in new ways. To understand our time, we must comprehend complexity, and to comprehend complexity, we must understand what makes this moment different from every other.

What distringuises the moment of complexity is not change as such but rather the acceleration of the rate of change. Everything moves faster and faster until speed becomes an end in itself.

Taylor's introduction rapidly brings up Derrida, Duchamp, Warhol, Mies van der Rohe, Robert Venturi, Frank Gehry, Foucault, Kant, Hegel, Claude Shannon, Norbert Weiner, John Holland, Stuart Kauffman, Murray Gell-Mann, Chuck CLose, Stephen Jay Gould, and Daniel Dennett. It's going to be quite a trick to meld these characters into a coherent story.

A back-of-the-book blurb by William Mitchell, Dean of MIT's School of Architecture and author of the delightful City of Bits, says "Somewhere inside Mark Taylor's head, worlds collide; Kant and Hegel run smack-bank into cyberspace. The result is an incandescent asteroid show of ideas."

Has anyone else here read this tome? Please leave a comment telling me what you think.

Posted by Jay Cross at January 14, 2004 08:57 PM | TrackBack


On the basis of your mouth-watering outline, this seems to be the sort of inspirational tome that should be on everyone's "must read" list. Consequently, I have just placed my order, and will look forward to a fruitful interchange of ideas.


Posted by: Philip Hart at January 15, 2004 05:30 AM

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