Lyotard – Book Club – Theory of Computation


100 years ago I went to Las Vegas with my girlfriends. Because I am a super nerd I brought along a copy of “The Postmodern Condition.” This is a short book and the only thing I remember is that Lyotard adds another level to the 3 metacategories of Kant: Aesthetics/judgement, Epistemology/knowledge, Ethics/action.

Lyotard adds speed. In the postmodern world we have a new category of speed. This really spoke to me as a technologist because computers give us power over processes. And this power, is the power to streamline (ie automate, ie make faster).

This also makes me think about the theory of computation. ToC is an Aristotelian project that attempts to categorizes computational processes by the time with which things happen. You have things that happen in polynomial time or non-polynomial time. This expands into space (in the time-space continuum), and certain processes have certain space limitations.

I would call this new category – Optimization. My notion of optimization is not really the fastest, but perhaps the most resiliant. It is a category the only pertains to networks and system – to relations not subject/object distinctions. Kant’s project is thoroughly embedded in the subject/object distinction.

Most people reference something about narrative as the most salient point of TPC -this obviously was not my takeaway.

I was reminded of Lyotard while I was listening to the Hermitix podcast on my way home from picking up a birthday gift for one of my children. The show interviewed Lyotard scholar Ashley Woodward, and one of things I found interesting was that there were not a lot of scholars familiar with the corpus of Lyotard’s work. One reason might be because it was so genre bending.

Sounds like my kind of corpus. So I went to Woodward’s site and found this list– about 30 books in Lyotard’s corpus. I thought -what if I read allof Lyotard’s books this month. That sounds a bit insane, but why not. Lets give it a shot. I doubt it will be the closest reading ever.

I remember reading about cinematographer Walter Murch and how he listened to particular composers or styles for months at a time and how that affected his perception of music. What I do that with authors.

Well I am putting down my current books – and picking up Lyotard.

I am excited for my month of Lyotard. I am thinking perhaps I will do other authors in other months.

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