Tag Archives: Claude Shannon

dynamic entropy / epistemological bunkering

Yesterday’s XKCD is funny, but (for me at least) funny in a grimly ironic way that Munroe may not have intended. In it, he points out that major figures in early cybernetics (von Neumann, Claude Shannon) and/or computer science (Richard Bellman) carefully named their research fields in ways intended to make the criticism of said fields more difficult.

Were someone working in the social sciences or humanities to have admitted to doing the same, they would be pilloried as civilisation-wrecking postmodern relativists, the enemies of liberal reason and the impeccable rationality of “hard” science.

Of course, the truth was always-already a construction, and perhaps nowhere more so than in the cold equations of maths, comp-sci and “optimization theory”. As Oncle Bruno and others have argued for many years, far more eloquently than I shall ever be able to, it is that very insistence of “hard” science upon its monopoly over the truth which seeded the ground for the multiple denialisms that current plague us.

That we can evidence such cavalier efforts at constructing fortificational epistemological framings from such eminent and celebrated figures in the history of post-war rationalism—one of whom, it’s worth repeating as often as possible, was a sociopathic creep-genius, the inventor of game theory and Mutually Assured Destruction, and a significant influence upon the characterisation of Doctor Strangelove—is an irony as bitter as it is piquant.