Being broken is essential to life.

At futuresonic, Ben Russell and Anne Galloway had a fire side chat, and at some point the audience questioned the nature of breakdown in the artistic practice involving mobile technologies (or something like that, I’m still working on stringing together the idea sculptures of art-speak). Of course, wifi wasn’t working, meaning we were talking directly to each other, which was the point of conferencing anyway.

Sometimes thinking is delayed, this time by a week, and I just have a couple very loose thoughts sparked from my studies in adaptation and evolution. W. Ross Ashby and the Cyberneticians of the 50s thought a lot about what breakdown means. In a sense, the functioning and adaptability of a machine is defined by what state space trajectories leads to breakage, and the ultrastability in the system that creates its persistance. It’s also related to description, an observation that something is productive. The machine thoughts also applied to living things.

The evolution of life depends on breakage. Living things break eventually, allowing new life to continue. And the origin of that new life is a breakdown. The process of DNA transcription, even with copy verification, has inherent errors. The system of life takes advantage of error, to generate variation for selection.

Simulated evolution seems to always unearth small details of implementation, adapts and takes advantage of the unintended.

Perhaps breakdown in technology is necessary for its own continued development and evolution, and necessary for the vitality of the ideas technology generates.