Cybernetic Gaia: On Lovelock and Latour

Deterritorial Investigations Unit

[The following is extracted from Niklas Schrape’s “Gaia’s Game”, found in Afterlives of Systems]

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There exists a curious tension between Latour’s reading of the Gaia hypothesis and Lovelock’s own wording that makes one wonder if they are actually writing about the same thing. This disparity might be explained by the development of cybernetic thought itself: Lovelock developed his original hypothesis under the influence of what has been called first-order cybernetics. He doesn’t refer to the concept of recursion by von Foerster or the one of autopoiesis by Maturana & Varela – and neither does Latour. But as Bruce Clark points out, the Gaia hypothesis does indeed incorporate concepts of second-order cybernetics:

Simply put, first-order cybernetics is about control; second-order cybernetics is about autonomy. (…) Unlike a thermostat, Gaia – the biosphere or system of all ecosystems – sets its own temperature by controlling it. (…) In second-order…

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