Benjamin H. Bratton

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Benjamin H. Bratton
BornNovember 3, 1968 (1968-11-03) (age 55)
Los Angeles, California
EducationUniversity of California, Santa Barbara (PhD)
Notable worksThe Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (2015), The Revenge of the Real: Politics for a Post-Pandemic World (2021)

Benjamin H. Bratton (born 1968) is an American Philosopher of Technology known for his work spanning social theory, computer science, design, artificial intelligence, and for his writing on the geopolitical implications of what he terms "planetary scale computation".[1][2]

He is Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD)[3] and author and editor of numerous books and essays[4] He is Director of Antikythera, a private research program studying the future of planetary computation.[5]

Early life[edit]

Bratton was born in Los Angeles, California in 1968[6] and holds a PhD in the sociology of technology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.[7]


Benjamin Bratton in 2017

Since 2009, he is Professor of Visual Arts at University of California, San Diego. Since 2014, he has been Professor of Philosophy of Design at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.[8] From 2019-22 he was visiting professor at NYU Shanghai.[9] Prior to teaching at UCSD, Bratton taught at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles from 2001 to 2010 and is now a distinguished visiting professor.[10] He taught in the Department of Design Media Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 2003 to 2008.[11] He founded University of California, San Diego's Speculative Design undergraduate major.[12]

In 2016, he succeeded Rem Koolhaas as program director of the Strelka Institute, a Moscow-based think tank and post-graduate program in architecture, media, and design.[13] He directed two three-year programs, The New Normal [14] and The Terraforming.[15] At the outbreak of the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine the institute indefinitely suspended all programs in protest.[16]

As of 2022, Bratton is the Director of a new research program on the speculative philosophy of computation called Antikythera, incubated by the Berggruen Institute with support from One Project.[5][17]


The Revenge of the Real: Politics for a Post-Pandemic World[edit]

In 2021, Verso Books published Bratton's book on the COVID-19 pandemic based on his essay "18 Lessons for Quarantine Urbanism".[18][19] The book argues that the pandemic demonstrates on ongoing crisis of governance in the West, and that technological capacity to respond to planetary crises outstrips the social and cultural capacity for collective self-organization.[20] The book discusses concepts of the epidemiological view of society, cultural controversies over masks, and points toward a positive biopolitics in sharp contrast with the work of Giorgio Agamben.[21]

The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty[edit]

The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty was published by MIT Press in late 2015.[22] The book challenges traditional ideas of sovereignty centered around the nation-state and develops a theory of geopolitics that accounts for sovereignty in terms of planetary-scale computation at various scales.[23] Its two core arguments are that planetary-scale computation “distorts and deforms traditional Westphalian logics of political geography” and creates new territories in its own image, and that different scales of computing technology can be understood as forming an “accidental megastructure” that resembles a multi-layer network architecture stack, what Bratton calls “The Stack.”[24][25] The Stack is described as a platform. Bratton argues that platforms represent a technical and institutional model equivalent to states or markets but reducible to neither. Bratton refers to the book as “a design brief” suggesting that the layers of this structure are modular available to innovation and replacement.[26]

Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution[edit]

His 2015 book Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution was published by e-flux Journal and Sternberg Press in 2015.[27] It launched publicly at the 2016 edition of the Transmediale festival in Berlin.[28] In the description by Sternberg Press the book is " kaleidoscopic theory-fiction" which "links the utopian fantasies of political violence with the equally utopian programs of security and control."[29]


"On Geoscapes & Google Caliphate: Except #Mumbai" examines the correspondence of political theology and planetary computation as modes of political geography.[30]

His lecture "Surviving the Interface: the Envelopes, Membranes and Borders of Deep Cosmopolitics" considers the emergence of new forms of sovereignty derived from shared digital and urban infrastructures, and the challenges they pose to conventional understandings of architectural partitions and national borders.[31]

In his article, "iPhone City (v.2005)" Bratton was early to demonstrate the impact that cinematic user interfaces for mobile social media would have on urban design.

His current work develops a political theory of planetary-scale computation and draws from disparate sources, from Paul Virilio, Michel Serres, and Carl Schmitt, to Alan Turing, Google Earth, and IPv6.[32]

In 2017, Bratton completed The New Normal an ebook for Strelka Press, which outlines the radical effects that technology is having on our world and describes the emerging forms of city that we should now be designing for.[33]

The essay "Planetary Sapience" (2021) published in Noema compares the violent evolution of natural intelligence with the emergence of synthetic intelligence and considers their interrelation in terms of an understanding of intelligence as part of geological history and planetary formation. He contrasts this with the popular notions of Gaia and the Noosphere.[34]

"The Model is the Message" (2022) co-authored with Blaise Aguera y Arcas, a VP of Artificial Intelligence at Google, examined recent controversies over large language models and the tendency to misattribute sentience to machines.[35]

Personal life[edit]

Bratton lives in La Jolla, California and has a son, Lucien, with writer Bruna Mori. He was adopted at an early age, and is the half-brother of Jamie Stewart of the band Xiu Xiu.[36]


  1. ^ "Design and Existential Risk". Parsons The New School for Design. 20 September 2010.
  2. ^ "Benjamin Bratton, The Visual Arts Department UCSD". Archived from the original on 11 November 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  3. ^ "Benjamin Bratton". Retrieved 2021-09-19.
  4. ^ "Benjamin Bratton". Retrieved 2021-09-19.
  5. ^ a b Bratton, Benjamin (2022-10-05). "A New Philosophy Of Planetary Computation". Noema.
  6. ^ Bratton, Benjamin. "BRATTON.INFO". Official Website.
  7. ^ "Benjamin Bratton". Retrieved 2021-09-19.
  8. ^ "Benjamin Bratton". The European Graduate School. Retrieved 2021-09-19.
  9. ^ "Benjamin H. Bratton Visiting Professor". NYU Shanghai. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  10. ^ "Benjamin H. Bratton - SCI-Arc". Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  11. ^ "UCLA Design Media Arts / Faculty". Retrieved 2021-09-19.
  12. ^ Ghanbari, Sheena. "New UC San Diego Visual Arts Major Emphasizes Designing for the Future". Archived from the original on 1 May 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  13. ^ "The New Normal. Presentation Of The Education Year At Strelka". Strelka. 10 November 2016. Archived from the original on 10 November 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  14. ^ "The New Normal — a speculative urbanism think tank at Strelka". Retrieved 2021-09-12.
  15. ^ "Apply to The Terraforming by November 10". The Terraforming 2021 Program. Retrieved 2021-09-12.
  16. ^ "Prominent Russian architectural school, Strelka Institute, suspends activities in protest of Ukraine invasion". Archinect. Retrieved 2022-03-01.
  17. ^ "Antikythera - Our Work - Berggruen Institute". 2022-09-30. Retrieved 2022-10-29.
  18. ^ Bratton, Benjamin (12 July 2022). The Revenge of the Real: Politics for a Post-Pandemic World. Verso Books. ISBN 9781839762574. Retrieved 2021-09-12.
  19. ^ "Benjamin Bratton: 18 Lessons of Quarantine Urbanism". Strelka Mag. Retrieved 2021-09-11.
  20. ^ The Revenge of the Real: Politics for a Post-Pandemic World w/ Benjamin Bratton, retrieved 2021-09-12
  21. ^ "Agamben WTF, or How Philosophy Failed the Pandemic". Retrieved 2021-09-12.
  22. ^ "The Stack". The MIT Press. Retrieved 2021-09-12.
  23. ^ Bratton, Benjamin H. (2016-02-26). The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty. MIT Press Limited. ISBN 9780262029575.
  24. ^ "transmediale 2014 | Keynote by Benjamin H. Bratton and Metahaven: The Black Stack". transmediale. March 19, 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2016 – via YouTube.
  25. ^ "Bartlett International Lecture Series: 2012-13 // Benjamin Bratton". YouTube. The Bartlett. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  26. ^ Jeff Kipnis, “A (P)review: Review of The Stack” LOG 35. October 22, 2015, p. 121
  27. ^ "Benjamin H. Bratton's Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution | e-flux". Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  28. ^ "Book Launch: Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution by Benjamin H. Bratton | transmediale 2016". Archived from the original on 2016-03-23. Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  29. ^ "Benjamin H. Bratton's Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution | e-flux". Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  30. ^ Theory, Culture and Society, 26, no. 7-8 (2009): 329-342
  31. ^ Bratton, Benjamin. "Surviving the Interface: the Envelopes, Membranes and Borders of Deep Cosmopolitics". Official Website. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  32. ^ Architectural Design, v79 n4 (200907): 90-97
  33. ^ "The New Normal". Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  34. ^ Bratton, Benjamin (17 June 2021). "Planetary Sapience". Noema. Retrieved 2021-09-10.
  35. ^ Bratton, Benjamin (2022-07-12). "The Model Is The Message". Noema.
  36. ^ Bratton, Benjamin H. (2018). "Music for Car Alarms (1998–2008)". Tank. No. 76.

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