ISBN 978-0-9954550-3-0


Irreversible Noise

Original Edition
£25 / $29.95
  • Paperback
  • 210×148mm
  • 400pp
  • Type: Norm
  • Cover Image: Optigram

    A major critical intervention in the small but growing theoretical discourse on the concept of ‘noise’—a discourse in which cultural theorists associate noise as ‘unwanted sound’ with the concepts of ‘noise’ and ‘randomness’ in contemporary science in an attempt to conceptualize noise using notions of alterity, contingency, and indeterminacy that have become the familiar indices of subversion in contemporary critical theory. Wilkins challenges this facile association and develops a compelling alternative. Wilkins shows how it is precisely the conceptual understanding of noise as intelligible constraint that can transform the structure of experience more effectively than the naïve equation of noise with unintelligibility. Irreversible Noise is a theoretical tour de force and a decisive contribution not only to ‘noise theory’, but also to cultural theory, sound studies, and philosophy.
    Ray Brassier

    Irreversible Noise develops a novel understanding of the theoretical and practical role of the notion of ‘noise’, as a form of randomness, in the humanities. Its multi-level account of constrained randomness contributes to demystifying noise, while giving a novel role to randomness, showing that constrained randomness is a functionally necessary condition of reason and, thus, of freedom. Drawing on concepts such as anti-entropy, extended criticality, the dynamic formation of phase space, the manifold nature of the concept of randomness and its functionality in historical dynamics, it turns them into fundamental tools for a novel analysis of a variety of fields.
    Giuseppe Longo

    In this wide-ranging inquiry Inigo Wilkins elaborates the theoretical and practical significance of the concept of noise with regard to current debates concerning realism, materialism, and rationality. Drawing on contemporary scientific thinking, Wilkins develops a multi-level analysis of noise, exploring the associated notions of randomness and unpredictability across different disciplinary contexts.

    The book articulates noise within a functionalist-computationalist philosophical framework that follows Wilfrid Sellars’s inferentialist account of reason through his commentaries on Hume and Kant. Outlining the significance of noise to information theory and cybernetics, its relation to thermodynamics, dynamic systems theory, evolutionary biology, and complexity theory, and to recent theories in cognitive science and AI, it then goes on to examine how randomness and noise are pertinent to political economy and contemporary finance. Finally Wilkins explores noise in its specifically sonic guise, looking in particular at the phenomenology of listening and neurophenomenological models of auditory cognition, and situating the use of noise in experimental and popular music within a deep historical account of its evolutionary development.

    The central aim of this pioneering critical work is to demystify noise—to counter the neoliberal politics of self-organising systems and the tendency to fetishize indeterminacy in contemporary art—by showing how constrained randomness is intrinsic to the functional organisation of complex hierarchically nested systems, including higher cognition, and how the navigation of noise is a necessary condition of reason and consequently of freedom.

    • Part 1
    • The Dimensions of Noise
    • A Botched Dialectic
    • The Resonant Clash
    • The Limits of Description
    • Entropy, Constraint, And Context
    • The Sensitive Automaton
    • Inhuman Syntheses
    • Referential Information And Self-Reflexivity
    • Variety, Stability, And Catastrophe
    • Perturbing The Predictive Model
    • Part 2
    • Signals and Signs
    • Semantics and Intelligence
    • Computing, Computationalism, and the Incomputable
    • Lossy Source Compression and Understanding
    • Part 3
    • The Delirium of Reason
    • Bayesian Pictures And Syntactic Significations
    • Thinking Beyond The Given
    • Index of Names
    • Index of Subjects
    • Bibliography