In Contingent Computation, M. Beatrice Fazi offers a new theoretical perspective through which we can engage philosophically with computing. The book proves that aesthetics is a viable mode of investigating contemporary computational systems. It does so by advancing an original conception of computational aesthetics that does not just concern art made by or with computers, but rather the modes of being and becoming of computational processes. Contingent Computation mobilises the philosophies of Gilles Deleuze and Alfred North Whitehead in order to address aesthetics as an ontological study of the generative potential of reality. Through a novel philosophical reading of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems and of Turing’s notion of incomputability, Fazi finds this potential at the formal heart of computational systems, and argues that computation is a process of determining indeterminacy. This indeterminacy, which is central to computational systems, does not contradict their functionality. Instead, it drives their very operation, albeit in a manner that might not always fit with the instrumental, representational and cognitivist purposes that we have assigned to computing.
Introduction / Part I Aesthetics / 1. Continuity versus Discreteness / 2. Computation / 3. Processes / Part II Abstraction / 4. Computational Idealism / 5. Axiomatics / 6. Limits and Potential / Part III Experience / 7. Computational Empiricism / 8. Factuality / 9. Actuality / Conclusion
Contingent Computation by M. Beatrice Fazi is a brilliantly original work arguing that the contingent does not lie outside computation but at its very heart, in the demonstrations by Gödel and Turing that some problems are incomputable and that formal systems, including computational axiomatics, are incomplete. Her approach opens our understanding of what computers can—and cannot—do to new modes of analysis that introduce contingency into technical systems in an entirely new way, refuting views that see computers as merely mechanical systems incapable of novelty. Highly recommended for humanities scholars and others interested in thinking about the role that computers play in a world that remains unknowable in its full complexity.