Panel: Anne Alombert, Michał Krzykawski, Maël Montévil

  • Panel Introduction
  • Anne Alombert: “Beyond the Anthropocene: from automatic societies to ‘anti-anthropic’ societies?”
  • Michał Krzykawski: “Metastable Institutions: Conceiving and Conceptualizing Sustainabilities”
  • Maël Montévil: “Entropies, organizations and their disruptions in biology”

It is impossible to effectively take up the challenges of the Anthropocene within the current macro-economic model which has become globalized over the last five decades. This claim goes far beyond the question of ideological/political convictions. It rather calls upon a rational necessity which requires us to theorize and experiment a new economic model, based on 20th century scientific advances: from thermodynamics, mathematics and biology to heterodox economy, philosophy of technology and social sciences.

In this panel we want to develop chosen theoretical stances and concepts which laid the groundwork for the economic, social and experimental approach to the Anthropocene, elaborated within Internation/Geneva2020 collective. Following the central assumption of this approach, we argue that what is generally referred to as the Anthropocene is characterized by a process of the massive increase of entropy in all its forms: thermodynamic entropy (climate change, mineral resource dispersal), biological entropy (biodiversity crisis, pandemic of non-communicable diseases in humans), information entropy (the so-called post-truth era) and, last but not least, psycho-social entropy (addiction, apathy and distrust of public institutions). Therefore, we describe the Anthropocene as Entropocene. The stake is not to produce just another “-cene;” instead, it is to characterize the nature of the core processes of the Anthropocene and their consequences: a massive increase of entropy.  The second stake is to reopen a rational alternative to the Anthropocene within the Anthropocene.

Inasmuch as this rational alternative appears as a rational necessity, it requires us, however, to build new theoretical models and reconceptualize the relationship between scientific/academic practices and localities, approached in the light of thermodynamic constraints. We will try to show how it is possible to respond to this rational necessity by mobilizing the concepts of anti-entropy (Bailly, Longo, and Montévil), anti-anthropy/neguanthropy (Stiegler), and exosomatic evolution (Lotka, Georgescu-Roegen) in order to give a systemic account of the very notion of organization in relation to organic and inorganic matter (Schrödinger, Stiegler, Hui). We argue that this authentically transdisciplinary approach makes it possible to reinvent new social and economic models in order to defer the anthropogenic catastrophe.

“Beyond the Anthropocene: from automatic societies to ‘anti-anthropic’ societies?”. In 1945, at the end of WWII, a biologist called Alfred Lotka described the process of exosomatisation which, according to him, characterized humanity: contrary to other living beings, human beings do not only produce natural or endosomatic organs, but also need artificial, technical or exosomatic organs, which develop themselves at an exponential speed. In the 1970’s, the economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen explored the economic consequences of such a theory. He shows that contrary to endosomatic organs through which living beings produce low entropy (through organization and diversification), these exosomatic organs are ambivalent : they lower the level of entropy, but they also participate in increasing it. There is no industry without garbage : through production and consumption, human societies accelerate the process which leads the universe to its entropic disintegration.

This acceleration of the entropic becoming of the universe through the exosomatic evolution of human species had lead the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss to describe anthropology as an entropology, and it is also what lead the philosopher Bernard Stiegler to describe the Anthopocene as an Entropocene. From this analysis, we will nevertheless try to show that through the practice of all kind of knowledge (know-how, know how to live, theoretical knowledge), which produce social organization and improbable bifurcations, human technical beings, who are also desiring and noetic beings, can slow down and differ this entropic tendency. The practice of such knowledge should thus become the core of economy : not in order to transform knowledge into a market value (such as in cognitive capitalism) but to value the collective practices through which human beings take care of themselves and of their technical environments, and thus constitute anti-anthropic societies.

Anne Alombert is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Paris Nanterre University. Her researches focus on the works of Gilbert Simondon, Jacques Derrida, and Bernard Stiegler, particularly on their philosophy of technology, and more generally, on the anthropological consequences of the contemporary digital transformation. She works at the Institute of Research and Innovation (Paris) in a contributory research program.

“Metastable Institutions: Conceiving and Conceptualizing Sustainabilities”. The organized human life without institutions—from the shaman to the United Nations—is unsustainable. However, in their current condition, institutions are largely unsustainable too. The systemic increase of entropy which characterizes the Anthropocene (here defined as the Entropocene) also stems from the crisis of institutions. A common approach to institutions and the way one thinks of their durability is, perhaps, still too Netwonian. “The duration or perseverance of the existence of things is the same, whether their motions are rapid or slow or null,” Newton argued in his Principia (1999, 410). But it seems that it is exactly the opposite: what make things persevere is their motions generated in a process of their continuous and infinite transformations inscribed in the finite things. These transformations make things infinitely appear different from themselves: if things still appear as perceptible forms, the latter are just a more or less temporary state in the infinite process of transformation.

Henceforth, the institutional challenge is to conceive this necessary temporariness as the very condition of the durability of institutions and conceptualize the institutional fact on a new basis. The aim of this presentation is to lay the groundwork for a new institutional theory, based on the concept of metastability as defined by the French philosopher Gilbert Simondon and in the context of the economic process as described by the Romanian heterodox economist Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen.

Michał Krzykawski, is associate professor and director of the Centre for Critical Technology Studies at the University of Silesia in Katowice. He has written extensively on contemporary French philosophy. His two books (in Polish), “Technics and the Soul. A Philosophical Essay for the Youth” and “The Condition of the Future. A New Report On Knowledge,” are forthcoming.

“Entropies, organizations and their disruptions in biology”. Why should we invest in the concept of entropy to face the challenges of the Anthropocene? Of course, entropy production is a more accurate description of physical processes than energy consumption – and the difference between the two concepts has applications. However, entropy has other ramifications. Living beings oppose entropy increase in two different ways. First, as emphasized by Schrödinger, living beings have to sustain a low entropy situation, and this implies that they are local, open systems. Second, while entropy increase leads to more generic configurations, biological individuation brings about the more specific organization, at the scale of evolution as well as shorter time scales. These specific organizations are precisely the way living being delay the increase of entropy. These counter-trends are analyzed as anti-entropy and anti-entropy production, respectively. We will show that they are damaged in the Anthropocene, meaning that biological organizations are disrupted, and their ability to reorganize is also weakened.

Maël Montévil is a theoretical biologist, working at the crossroad of experimental biology, mathematics, and philosophy. His work focuses on the theoretical foundations of biology, and the role that mathematics can play in this field. He also applies the general frameworks that he develops to current issues such as endocrine disruptors and more generally the Anthropocene. He currently works at the Institut de Recherche et d’Innovation in Prof. Stiegler’s team and in IHPST, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne on a project funded by the Cogito Foundation. His publication may be found at https://montevil.theobio.org/en


Hello everyone, we’ll be happy to respond to your questions or just to read your thoughts about the panel. Please feel free to leave your comments. Michal

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