“Thinking Destruction: Creativity, Rational Choice, Emergence, and Destruction Theory”

Citation: “Thinking Destruction: Creativity, Rational Choice, Emergence, and Destruction Theory.” Occasion: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, 1.1 (October 15, 2009). https://arcade.stanford.edu/occasion/thinking-destruction-creativity-rational-choice-emergence-and-destruction-theory

[Excerpt from beginning of sections 1 and 2 of essay]

What might be a theory of destruction adequate to our times? Can we build such a theory (as antithetical as it may sound) out of better studied theories of creativity? And if so, do we borrow from rationalistic (including rational choice ) theories or instead adopt the subrational view of one of the most vigorous competitors of rationalistic approaches today: emergence theory? These are the questions I pose in this essay, which considers in a preliminary way how a contemporary theory of destruction might be built or “created” from the bottom up.

Some of our most interesting, recent theories of creativity, indeed, already nurture within themselves a nascent theory of destruction. Consider, for example, the “animat”—we can nickname it “rat thing”—that lives in Steve Potter’s neuroengineering lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Rat thing consists of “a few thousand living neurons from rat cortex … placed on a special glass petri dish instrumented with an array of 60 micro-electrodes.”