Endosomatic vs Exosomatic Evolution

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Daniel Ross:

"The first of these books, The Biosphere (by Vladimir Vernadsky), was not read by Stiegler until many years later, I believe, when he had begun to ask not just about technics but about what he called ‘exosomatization’, a notion derived from reading the work of Alfred Lotka, a mathematical biologist, on ‘exosomatic evolution’.

Exosomatic evolution refers to the unfolding of a form of life that is no longer just the endosomatic evolution of the biological life of the biosphere, but rather technical life, that produces organs extending outside the body of the organism, without which it cannot survive.

Exosomatic evolution thus names the process that in Technics and Time, Stiegler mostly referred to as hominization (a process that precedes the human).

What was crucial for Stiegler about the work of Lotka, however, was not just the distinction between exosomatic and endosomatic evolution, but the fact that these were considered to be distinct forms of the struggle against entropy: ‘as was pointed out years ago by Boltzmann, the life struggle is primarily a competition for available energy’.4

In other words, if, asking in Dublin in February 1943 about the fundamental character of life, Erwin Schrödinger referred to ‘negative entropy’, then Lotka shows in 1945 that we must ask this question in a specific way when life operates not just through natural selection, but artificial selection. Vernadsky himself would cite earlier work of Lotka, but whereas Vernadsky still believed that technology is a ‘universal, peaceful and civilizing force’,5

Lotka, writing in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, was far more conscious of the fact that, for exosomatic life, technical power (the ‘receptors and effectors’) requires processes of ‘adjustment’ through knowledge, wisdom and care, if the perpetual threat of disaster is to be avoided."