Nanotech Database

Article Title:
Chaos and Control: Nanotechnology and the Politics of Emergence

Kearnes, Matthew

Journal Information:
Vol. 29, Num. 2


Kearns is interested in the "specific interventions that particular scientists make, and are making, into the material world within the broadly defined field of nanotechnology." Nanotechnology is about making things with absolute control. Kearnes explores the strong links between French philosopher Gilles Deleuze's (1925-1995) molecular ontology and the fields of complexity and emergence. He argues that Deleuze's work implies a "philosophy of technology" that is both open and dynamic.

The current politics of nanoscale emergence are in tension: can scientists have provisional control or complete control of matter? Control in biotechnology depends upon growth, upon provisional control. Kearnes glosses the early discussion of the field between Feynman and Drexler and notes that life is seen in their texts as entirely mechanistic, as something to be completely controlled. Nanoscale processes had to be mastered. Other scientists see nanoscale processes as steps to be harnessed.

Deleuze discussed control as the latter -- the process minutely and momentarily controlled. Matter and artistic representation of matter are always in flux at the smallest scale. He finally argues that "the design, control and precision necessary to generate these structures emerges within the structures themselves and the processes through which they are formed."