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From biology to economics to information theory, the theme of interdependence is in the air, framing our experiences of all sorts of everyday phenomena. Indeed, the network may be the ascendant metaphor of our time. Yet precisely because the language of interdependence has become so commonplace as to be almost banal, we miss some of its most surprising and far-reaching implications.
In Interdependence, biologist Kriti Sharma offers a compelling alternative to the popular view that interdependence simply means independent things interacting. Sharma systematically shows how interdependence entails the mutual constitution of one thing by another – how all things come into being only in a system of dependence on others.
In a step-by-step account filled with vivid examples, Sharma shows how a coherent view of interdependence can help make sense not only of a range of everyday experiences but also of the most basic functions of living cells. With particular attention to the fundamental biological problem of how cells pick up signals from their surroundings, Sharma shows that only an account which replaces the perspective of "individual cells interacting with external environments" with one centered in interdependent, recursive systems can adequately account for how life works.
Interdependence will be of interest to biologists and philosophers, to theorists of science, of systems, and of cybernetics, and to anyone curious about how life works. Clear, concise, and insightful, Interdependence: Biology and Beyond explicitly offers a coherent and practical philosophy of interdependence and will help shape what interdependence comes to mean in the twenty-first century.
Kriti Sharma, a microbiologist, is completing her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"Interdependence is an exceptionally original work of comprehensive theorizing. Conceptually subtle, empirically rigorous, and compellingly argued, it addresses some of the most fundamental questions in theoretical biology and demonstrates their close relation to central problems in our ideas of knowledge, existence, and reality."
– Barbara Herrnstein Smith, author, Scandalous Knowledge: Science, Truth and the Human
"In setting forth her vision of contingentism – that objects are really webs of processes contingent on multiple interacting conditions – Sharma moves eloquently back and forth between biology and philosophy. The book is a model of accessible but serious and elegant science writing."
– Evan Thompson, University of British Columbia
"Kriti Sharma has written a remarkable book that moves seamlessly from the empirical world of biology – indeed, the microscales of test tubes and cells and molecules – to the consideration of the broadest philosophical concepts that define how we comprehend existence itself. The writing is lively and the illustrations are drawn from a wide and interdisciplinary range of sources and experiences, yet the development of the ideas is scholarly, careful, and well documented. Interdependence: Biology and Beyond will elevate and churn your thinking. It is Sharma's first book and the reader feels privileged to be present at the start of an exciting intellectual journey."
– Peter White, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill