WB Arthur, for SFI Bulletin

I had the pleasure of photographing economist W.B. Arthur for the SFI Bulletin, The Santa Fe Institute's magazine. Mr Arthur, "credited with influencing and describing the modern theory of increasing returns," (wikipedia) was a delight to meet and even after wrapping the shoot we continued to talk for close to an hour about chaos theory and the global economy.

I was thrilled when he gave me a copy of his book, "The Nature of Technology," and after reading it I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in how inventions are born and how technology evolves, seemingly with a life of its own.

Ever looking at the world through the lens of photography, I found many striking quotes, including: "a technology is more than a mere means. It is a programming of phenomena for a purpose. A technology is an orchestration of phenomena to our use" (pg 53).

Certainly photography, from its inception in the 1830's as a modification of the camera obscura into a recording instrument in its own right, all the way to present day, when emulsions have been outmoded by silicon and circuitry, has evolved dramatically. The phenomena of light's ability to describe the world has been orchestrated into marvelously sophisticated tools used to study, protect, define, and artfully express.

I regularly find myself oscillating between analog film's physical properties (and delayed gratification) and the convenience and logistical superiority afforded by modern digital cameras.

Says Mr Arthur, "We are caught between two huge and unconscious forces: our deepest hope as humans lies in technology; but our deepest trust lies in nature. These forces are like tectonic plates grinding inexorably into each other in one long, slow collision" (pg 11).

Get your hands on a copy of Mr Arthur's book, or begin by reading one of his working papers through the SFI website:

"All Systems Will Be Gamed: Exploitive Behavior in Economic and Social Systems"

"Complexity Economics: A Different Framework for Economic Thought"