Parallel Minds, 29–32


Weaving the Future


In her book Zeros And Ones, the philosopher Sadie Plant examines the relationship between weaving and new technologies, especially in the context of computer science and cybernetics. She links the idea of soft technology to the concept of software, i.e. programs that are able to perform abstract processes via a material substrate. According to Plant, fabric and software are based on a similar principle:

[T]extile images are never imposed on the surface of the cloth: their patterns are always emergent from an active matrix, implicit in a web which makes them immanent to the processes from which they emerge.

In this sense, it is never possible to separate the abstract content of the software from the material process that produces it, in the same way that it is never possible to separate the pattern we see in a tapestry from the interweaving of the threads that make it up. Although the concept of software does not belong to the domain of materials science, the thought that Plant expresses here is also applicable to the soft material that makes up the spider’s web, and to many other smart materials…