A minimal intellectual history of our times

The modern era has had several attempts at adopting a so-called nomad science as a meta-theory of everything. Here is a list. Most of them were completely terrible.

From 1900 to 1939: Race Science
From 1910 to 1960: Psychoanalysis
From 1930 to 1980: Marxism
From 1950 to 1980: Cybernetics
From 1975 to today: Postmodernism
From 1979 to 2008: Public Choice Theory
From 2008 to today: Harry Potter

6 Comments on "A minimal intellectual history of our times"


  1. This is good.
    I would also like to submit to you ‘Theme Parks’ or Disney at any rate https://www.wired.com/1997/03/disney-fellows/ – not something that you hear about any more, but it does form part of the ludicrous ‘theme parks, operating systems and other stuff I don’t really understand as extended metaphor’ In The Beginning Was The Command Line by Neal Stephenson.
    Also ‘architects’ (as in the real ones not software ‘architects’) as The People Who Understand Things (TM), see particularly Koolhaas.
    Thinking about it, I suppose ‘software’ has to be in there, not sure what dates, 1984 (The Mac) to 2018 (Cambridge Analytica)?

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    1. I t b w t c l is great on the micro politics of how software systems interacts with the end user (including those end users who are also writing code) and the metaphor works well for other kinds of tool use – but if doesn’t have a great deal to say about the ways that the architecture choices of software systems have effects on the public sphere or society as a whole.

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      1. Stephenson strikes me as being essentially a crank and seems to be to often operate at or give the impression of operating at the ‘things one of my mates told me down the pub’ level of informedness, but I thought it was interesting that he and Wired (possibly independently, though he did write a couple of things for Wired, one about cable laying and a rather nutty thing about China) came up with this ‘Disney as zeitgeist’ thing.
        ‘Wired’ itself obviously forms part of some sort of ideology, there is obviously a cybernetics / ecology linkage, I would suggest Stewart Brand as being a pivotal linking figure (which takes us of course into consultancy and scenario planning via GBN). Did you see this? https://www.suzannetreister.net/HEXEN2/HEXEN_2.html

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        1. It gets on my nerves; yet another project based on the DARPA Cooties Theory of the History of Technology. Nobody ever accuses tarmac of being a sinister artefact of Franco-British military engineering but they might with as much reason

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