Adaptive Irritation

Jonathan Lukens

While it may be easier – and more cathartic – to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, it is even easier for (either) the laziest (or most ambitious among us–I’m still thinking it over) to imagine the continuation of the present. In a world which is alleged to be changing, in which __________ may soon be a thing of the past, I propose a scenario planning workshop to address the possibility that everything may stay the same. This supposes a sort of adaptive present in which the fragility and contingent nature of infrastructure and other substrates of modernity fail to be disrupted. Inspired by the theme of catastrophe, I wish to facilitate speculation into its absence: the boring possibility of modernity continuing on unmolested.
To that end, I borrow a distinction from the study of ecosystem management: the difference between engineering resilience, which defines resilience as the ability to withstand the disturbance of, and return to, a single point of equilibrium; and ecosystem resilience, in which a system may have multiple points of equilibrium, and disruptions force the system from one state into another. This involves inverse relationships between optimization and resilience, and adaptive management and hierarchical, command and control systems.
I wish to employ these concepts to assist participants in imagining a sort of resilient and adaptive modernity in which everything exploitive, annoying, and alienating fails to be destroyed and simply changes shape. Like watching a video loop of a man failing to slip on a banana peel, only then can things truly become mildly amusing.