Machines can roughly be divided into hot and cold objects (for those not familiar with my concept of machines, cf here). From the outset it’s important to proceed with care. The distinction between hot and cold objects is not a distinction between dynamic and static objects. All physical objects are dynamic in some sense or another as they all face the perpetual threat of entropy or dissolution, and therefore must engage in operations or activities to continue their existence or endure through time. There is no physical object that is not dissolving, and therefore there is no object that is not engaged in activities to continue its existence. As a consequence, there is no physical object that is not dynamic. Rather, the distinction between hot and cold objects is a distinction between objects undergoing a process of composition and objects that are composed.
A cold object is an entity or unit that has managed to internalize a swarm of other units, forming a distinct One out of the multiple that manages to persist as a patterned unity for a time. A cold object is what Badiou refers to as the product of a “count-as-one”. The coolness of cold objects resides not in sitting still or in being finished products, but in having solved the problem of how to be one out of the multiple. Our bodies are cold objects. We are unities– units, Ones –but are composed of all sorts of other units. We are composed of cells, all sorts of microorganisms (about 90%, the biologists tell us), organs, and so on. These cells and microorganisms perpetually die and must be replaced. Our bodies must engage in all sorts of operations or activities to replace dead cells and microorganisms; and do this, in part, through the metabolization of energy drawn from the world about us, giving that energy new form as a result of its operations. Moreover, our bodies grow, develop, and change throughout the time of our existence. We see this most dramatically in the case of our development in childhood, but it development takes place throughout life as can be seen in the case of learning and aging. Cold objects are never finished, they are just objects that have managed to achieve some sort of open-ended unity of becoming as a One.
A hot object isn’t really an object at all. Rather it is a swarm of objects that may or may not come to form an object or a unity. Hot objects are swarms of objects on the way to becoming a cold object. They are what DeLanda talks about under the title of “morphogenesis”, and what Latour has in mind when he talks about “science in action”. The question with respect to hot objects is that of whether or not a unity will emerge out of this swarm, forming a unit. Will a unit manage to internalize a swarm of objects to form itself as a unit? The causality here is circular. The unit both arises out of the swarm of which it is composed and organizes this swarm into parts of itself. Will these temperatures, this moisture, this pressure, and these air currents generate a tornado or hurricane (cool objects), or will it just remain a multiplicity or swarm of other entities. Will these disparate people form into a revolutionary group, or will they remain disparate people? Will operations emerge through the bricolage or conjunction of cool objects that manage to produce a unity that can persist and continue itself across time, or will they remain external to one another? Such is the question of hot objects.