Our innovative research work on the organizational similarities between computer architecture and social and socio-political systems has been accepted for presentation at the Society for Philosophy and Technology conference (SPT2019), to be held at Texas A&M University from May 20th-22nd, 2019. With this work we hope to expand the understanding of organizing principles of large-scale systems composed of homogeneous individuals (i.e., humans or transistors). Knowing that technological design of any artifact could take many different routes, depending on the context it grows out of, then implies that the found organizing principles of computer architecture are also context specific and not universal. This recognition can help us question the same social and socio-political organizing principles we take for granted. See the abstract below:
Foucault introduced a notion of technology that describes the relationships between social systems, power and mechanisms of control. This is our first link between technology (as method) and power. We reinterpret Foucault’s concepts to describe the functioning of computer architecture. This is our second link between technology (as artifact) and power.
Demonstrating the disciplines and political anatomy on these two distinct systems – one social, one technical – we argue that their similarities are not by chance, but founded in both systems belonging to a more abstract class of large-scale systems composed of homogeneous individuals. In such systems functionality is not derived from characteristics of any particular individual, but from the structure and mechanisms of control homogenized individuals are embedded in and subjected to. Under this assumption we assert that observed organizing principles of the mentioned social and technical systems are inherited from the abstract class.
To derive possible implications we turn to Heidegger’s ideas of Gestell (enframing) and the essence of technology. Starting from our second link between technology and power, we discuss computer architecture as an artifact of modern technology in Heidegger’s sense. Showing how computer architecture exhausts time and uses docile individual transistors to maximize its quantitative output points to Heidegger’s concept of Bestand (standing reserve) and the implicit dangers he saw in it for modern societies.
Extending this thought to our first link between technology and power, the question of the Gestell and the essence of social organization (as technology) arises. Reflecting on shared organizing principles of the mentioned systems we intend to reveal a Gestell of social organization and how its constraints transform humanity into a Bestand. The recognition of political organizing principles outside of social systems can thus lead to a more primal truth of the relations between individuals, structure, functionality and power within large-scale systems.