Panel III Hybrid Growth
The concept of growth traverses the spheres of biology, economy, and technology. Oxford English Dictionary reminds us that ‘growth’ may variously refer to “[t]he action, process or manner of growing; both in material and immaterial senses; vegetative development; increase”. But also, that in pathology ‘a growth’ can equally mean ‘a morbid formation’.
In nature, growth processes occur in biological organisms at all scales. But in the era of the Anthropocene and in light of technological developments evinced by e.g. GMO and synthetic biology, it is, more and more difficult to think of these processes as unfolding autonomously in isolation from human activity.
Perpetual economic growth was up until recently the central mantra within the capitalist organization of society. In the wake of global financial crisis, a questioning of never-ending growth as an ideal has, however, started to take place. Moreover, measures previously taken to diminish the ecological impact of economic expansion are no longer deemed adequate. ‘Climate capitalism’, ‘carbon markets’ and discourses on ‘sustainability’, for instance, are being questioned from perspectives that advocate a ‘de-growth’ process or the gradual transition to a ‘post-growth’ society.
Within contemporary technical research, growth processes has also come into focus, notably in fields such as ‘bio-inspired’ and ‘evolutionary’ computing and robotics. Algorithms have been developed to ‘evolve’ virtual creatures or structures based on ‘L-systems’ derived from plant morphologies in silico. Cultures of live neurons are also being proposed as computational modules, and rat muscle cells have been grown into bio-actuators that drive soft robots. Notions of growth also underlie the recent focus on ‘evolution of development’ in robotics and visions of robots that can grow feet or wheels based on what is most beneficial in the specific environment they come to inhabit.
The Hybrid Growth panel probes ‘growth’ as a multi-facetted concept that broaches a diverse set of disciplines. The panel will explore the interconnections between biological growth, economic growth, and technological development through presentations coming from different viewpoints and practices. As part of the Hybrid Matters framework, it will attempt to facilitate transversal thinking across traditional boundaries, to lay the ground for considerations on a hybrid concept of growth.
Members of the panel are Jonas Jørgensen, Merja Penttilä, Paavo Jarvensivu and Maarja Kruusmaa.