Effectual Anticipation: Analytical, Dialectical and Crealectical Moments

What is the future when anticipated? Massumi (2007) calls it an “indeterminate potentiality”. We might add, in line with the spirit of process philosophies (Bergson, 1911; Whitehead, 1929) that the Real that is not yet real is a Creal, a creative process of potential actualizations (de Miranda, 2017). Usually, when accounts of the future are seen as performative, they are understood as enacting a particular future while also marginalizing alternative futures in order to realize the projected future (Michael, 2017). What are the different modes that this enacting can take? The research strategy I initiated at the University of Örebro in 2018 (CREA, Cross-disciplinary Research in Effectual Anticipation) anticipates an understanding of performative anticipation that distinguishes between analytical, dialectical and crealectical aspects or moments.

I thus propose a distinction between three modes of anticipation: a) a “reactive” anticipation (Rosen, 1985), based on analytic understanding, today dominantly reinforced with the use of automated predictive systems; b) a dialectical form of anticipation (Clément, 1994) often, based on process as antagonism of dualities (Hegel, 1807); c) an what I have taken to calling a crealectic form of anticipation, which integrates but supersedes the analytic and dialectic modes into a frame in which the creative impulse — the Creal — is not only a human feature but also a holistic one, a primum mobile, an cosmological ground.

Even those who attempt to hold a purely deterministic view of the future might admit that the future is not fully realized yet. The virtual reality of the future seems to imply a before and an after, even if it were a program that merely unfolds over time, such as in the universal simulation hypothesis (Bostrom 2003). What the analytical perspective fails to see, as pointed by Rosen, is that anticipatory behavior or anticipatory awareness becomes an ingredient among others in the agential factors that shape the future. The performative — hereafter effectual — stance claims that anticipation of members, designers and users of a given system cannot be ignored in the analysis and conception of our environments.

Effectual designates the action of the anticipator on the protocol she conceives or follows. In his essay on probabilities, Laplace (1902 [1812]) famously described the project of what would be later called the “reactive paradigm” of science (Rosen 1985): “We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.” However, even if such an analytic understanding were possible, the metacognition that produced it, because it is itself active and embodied, cannot be left out of the loop: it is a projection of anticipations into the future with a more or less tangible influence on its unfolding. A purely mechanistic or functionalist model is not satisfactory if it attempts to predict the future as a deterministic consequence of a quantitative past. Probabilistic approaches remain narrow if they do not take into account the feed-forward effects of anticipation on a given system, whether it is a human or non-human form of anticipation. Noosystems (Barrett, 2001), id est ecosystems or technosystems in which cognition and metacognition have an internal influence, constantly interact. Born of a dialogue between the humanities and the computer science department, CREA is particularly interested in studying effectual anticipation in anthrobotic assemblages (de Miranda et al., 2016).

In humans, as noted by primatologist Robert Sapolsky (2011), the psychological difference between before and after is so important that entire groups, for example religious ones, are capable of sacrificing their life and secular well-being in anticipation of a worthwhile future. This might seem an aberration from an analytic point of view. The paradoxical capacity to pursue a knowledge about something we ignore but we feel is there to be actualized is crealectical because, rather than only looking at real data, it dives into the Creal, what Einstein after van’t Hoff (1878) called scientific imagination. The necessity of considering effectual anticipation in the conception and study of noosystems goes against the way theorization tends to exclude the subject — the observer, the practitioner, the designer — in the description of the system. The intentional and cognitive focus, the affective ideation of what is to come, cannot be left out of the noosystem. Effectual anticipation means that we need to see anticipation as an active element in the conception of our models. I wish to contribute to the field of anticipation studies by better describing this crealectical mode of thought.


Barrett, G. W. (2001), “Closing the Ecological Cycle: The Emergence of Integrative Science”, Ecosystem Health, 7 (2).

Bergson, H. (1911). Creative Evolution, tr. Arthur Mitchell. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Bostrom, N. ‘Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?’, Philosophical Quaterly, 53 (211), pp. 243-255.

Clément, C. (1994). Syncope: The Philosophy of Rapture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Hoff, J. H. van’t, Imagination in Science, trans  Springer, G. F.. Springer-Verlag New York Inc., 1967.

Laplace, P. S. (1902 [1814]), A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities, trans. Truscott, F. W. & Emory, F.L. (New York, NY: Wiley and Sons).

Massumi, B. (2007). “Potential politics and the primacy of preemption”, Theory and Event, 10(2).

Michael, M. (2017), “Enacting Big Futures, Little Futures: Toward an ecology of futures”,

The Sociological Review, Volume: 65 issue: 3, pp. 509-524.

Miranda, L. de, Ramamoorthy, R, Rovatsos, M. (2016), ‘We, Anthrobot: Learning From Human Forms of Interaction and Esprit de Corps to Develop More Plural Social Robotics. In J Seibt, M Nørskov, S.S. Andersen (eds.), What Social Robots Can and Should Do, Vol. 290, Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications.

de Miranda, L. (2017), “On the Concept of Creal: The Politico-Ethical Horizon of a Creative Absolute”, In The Dark Precursor: Deleuze and Artistic Research. Leuven University Press. pp. 510-516

Parent, J-P.,Takasu K., Brodeur, J., Boivin G. (2017) ‘Time perception-based decision making in a parasitoid wasp’, Behavioral Ecology, 28 (3), 1, pp 640-677.

Rosen, R. (1985). Anticipatory Systems. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Whitehead, A. N. (1929)Process and Reality. New York: The Free Press.

Sapolski, R. (2011). ‘Are Humans Just Another Primate’, California Academy of Sciences, library.fora.tv.

Seibt, S. Nørskov, M., Andersen, S. S. (eds.), What Social Robots Can and Should Do, Vol. 290, Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Comments (



Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: