Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto · Journal of Design and Science, Ito (draft, 2018)

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Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto · Journal of Design and Science

Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto

Designing our Complex Future with Machines.

by Joichi Ito

Resisting Reduction

Designing our Complex Future with Machines


Review, research and editing team: Catherine Ahearn, Chia EversNatalie Saltiel, Andre Uhl

While I had long been planning to write a manifesto against the technological singularity and launch it into the conversational sphere for public reaction and comment, an invitation earlier this year from John Brockman to read and discuss The Human Use of Human Beings by Norbert Wiener with him and his illustrious group of thinkers as part of an ongoing collaborative book project contributed to the thoughts contained herein.

Phase 1 was the publication of this essay, using the PubPub open publishing platform in partnership with the MIT Press. In phase 2, this new version of the essay enriched and informed by input from open commentary has been published online, along with essay length contributions by others inspired by the seed essay, as a new issue of the Journal of Design and Science. In phase 3, a revised and edited selection of these contributions will be published as a print book by the MIT Press.

Version 1.2


Nature’s ecosystem provides us with an elegant example of a complex adaptive system where myriad “currencies” interact and respond to feedback systems that enable both flourishing and regulation. This collaborative model–rather than a model of exponential financial growth or the Singularity, which promises the transcendence of our current human condition through advances in technology—should provide the paradigm for our approach to artificial intelligence. More than 60 years ago, MIT mathematician and philosopher Norbert Wiener warned us that “when human atoms are knit into an organization in which they are used, not in their full right as responsible human beings, but as cogs and levers and rods, it matters little that their raw material is flesh and blood.”1sergej lugovic We should heed Wiener’s warning.