race: determinism and

pucefakeAI and Robotics

Nov 30, 2013 (3 years and 8 months ago)

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Towards a cybernetics of
race: determinism and
plasticity in ideological
and biological systems

Ron Eglash, Science and Technology
Studies, Rensselaer

Anthropology has two
contradictory strategies
wrt

race:



Oppose myth with more accurate science

positivist battle of facts



Expose myth as social construction

postmodernist battle of discourse

But you can’t do both!

“Empirical evidence shows that these racial groups
do not differ in
innate intelligence”


“Race is just a social construction, it has no
empirical basis.”

So how
do

we bring together positivist and
constructivst views?

How
not

to bring together
positivist and constructivst views:

E.O. Wilson’s
Consilience


reducing
the humanities
to an epiphenomena of genetic programming
.


Richard H. Brown’s
Toward a Democratic Science
:
“such
a synthesizing poetics of truth is the view of
science and society as texts.”

Some better examples of merging
positivist and constructivist views:

Sandra Harding: “Strong Objectivity”


Donna Haraway: “Situated Knowledge”


Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson: “Second
Order Cybernetics”

Margaret Mead’s 1967 keynote address at
the First Annual Symposium of the ASC:
“The Cybernetics of Cybernetics.”

10
th

Macy conference on Cybernetics, April 1957

Important tools from cybernetics for
investigating race and racism


Both biological and social systems
can be
described
(incompletely)
in terms of their
information flows.



Recursive information flows are key
to
the
dynamics
of
both biological and social
worlds.



These recursive loops produce
effects at multiple
scales:
and scale matters!











Recursion in Marshal
Sahlin’s

The Use and
Abuse of Biology


M
olecules
are predictable by the laws of
physics.

BUT


Molecules that can talk about themselves

DNA



can produce systems too complex to describe with
physics.


Hence the need for biological laws.



Recursion in Marshal
Sahlin’s

The Use and
Abuse of Biology


Biological systems are
predictable by the laws of
biology.

BUT


Biological systems that can talk about themselves

people

have some behaviors too complex to
describe with biological laws


Hence the need for social science


Recursive “emergence”

creates a zone of

autonomy























Stephen J Gould replicates
Sahlin’s

argument of autonomy from recursive
emergence

“I can't think of an Earthly phenomenon more deeply
intricate…

and therefore more replete with
nonlinear interactions and emergent features


than the human brain.”

Is recursive “emergence”

really enough to make the
mind autonomous from
genetic programming?











A
mend
Sahlin

and Gould’s portrait: these
recursive loops are
nested
. Is there so
much interpenetration that the autonomy
argument is nullified?

















































































One way to gain autonomy is via
differences in the scale of the loops.





















Constitutional law:
changes occurs on
the scale of decades

State law: changes
on the scale of years

Municipal law:
changes on the
scale of months











Organisms adapt to environments using
loops at multiple scales: genetic,
epigenetic, behavioral, etc.





















Genetic changes over
hundreds of thousands
of years

Behavioral
changes over
single year

Epigenetic changes
over a decade











The extreme genetic similarity between
humans is a result of the mismatch
between the time scale of the genetic loop
and the time scale of the cultural loop.











Significant human
genetic adaptation
occurs over hundreds
of thousands of years

Significant
human cultural
adaptation
changes over
single year











Between phyla, genetic differentiation
rates differ by reproductive rate and
functional complexity.





















Vertebrate
evolutionary changes
over hundreds of
thousands of years

Virus changes
over single year

Invertebrate
evolutionary changes
over thousands of
years











Our parasites evolve faster than we do! So
we have response loops at various scales





















Genetic response to
parasites

Behavioral
response to
parasites

Immune system
response to parasites

Genetically distinguishable groupings
attributed to “race” include results of
genetic response to parasites, such as
sickle cell resistance to malaria

But this “racial distribution” will be different from

those based on other characteristics:


Malaria distribution Sickle cell distribution


For example we get a different “racial
geography” looking at the genetics of
melanin distribution

Given the absence of sufficient genetic
distinction to meet the definition of human
races as subspecies, we could redefine races as
“my melanin race,” “my lactose race,” etc.



WRONG RIGHT

Controversy over consolidating genetic
distinctions as race not only occurs for humans,
but for non
-
humans as well:













Department of the Interior ruled that hybrids of endangered subspecies
cannot be protected

heightened racial distinction of:


Red
Wolf

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled
that certain subspecies are too
continuous to be considered
distinct races

diminished racial
distinction of:

Western and Eastern Sage Grouse

Homeostasis between
social forces for/against

a genetic system as race
and “evidence” for race











Just as biological evolution uses these recursive
loops to adapt to changing physical
environments, concepts of race
and racism itself
adapt to changing social environments.

Changing definitions
of race: Essentialist,
Taxonomic,
Population, Lineage











Changing strategies of
racism: polygenesis,
phenotypic, genetic,

Post
-
racial

Racism is resilient because it too is adaptive:


As race becomes decentralized, so does
racism

we can expect a “post
-
racial” racism
that is based on decentralized notions of
genetic superiority.


Anti
-
Racism efforts can also adapt
:


Rather than
establishing static, universal rules such as
“oppose
unilineal

ranking” or “plasticity is better than
determinism”
we can influence the mutation,
propagation and spread of the variants that oppose
authoritarian abuse in our cultural
ecology