What are the philosophical consequences of automation after the integration of pervasive AI into the architecture, landscapes and cognitive maps of our planet and its populations? We suggest that "natural models" of automation pre-exist our technology, with profound implications for human and planetary systems. We’re interested in specific examples and models outside of our cultural milieu that test the limits of bodies, that map habits and their disruption through noise, and reframe the relation between life and consciousness. The following examples index the performance of networks in tight cycles of feedback loops: machines teaching machines. To go to the root of the philosophical consequences of automation our path is through abstract and universalist models of ‘natural laws’, redeployed into specific local situations. We use the term ‘drive’ for its myriad implications connecting across the examples we have chosen.
The relevant revolution today is the current electronic one. Architecturally, the symbol systems that electronics purveys so well are more important than its engineering content. The most urgent technological problem facing us is the humane meshing of advanced scientific and technical systems with our imperfect and exploited human systems, a problem worthy of the best attention of architecture's scientific ideologues and visionaries.
—Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas
During the last decade, the idea of a technological singularity has passed from science fiction to a plausible prediction of the proximate future. In its simplest terms, a technological singularity will take place when an artificial general intelligence (AGI), capable of modifying its own code, advances so rapidly that subsequent technological progress (and as a result history itself) become as unpredictable and unfathomable as what happens within a black hole. In the most radical vision, the ‘hard takeoff’, within hours or even minutes of artificial intelligence developing the capacity for recursive self-improvement, the intelligence advances so greatly that it fundamentally transforms life on Earth.
The following essay by Nick Axel (Volume's Managing Editor) first published by the magazine in their 49th issue, Hello World!
With the rise of computational networks and power, cognitive models developed and debated over in the postwar decades have finally been able to be put to work. Back then, there was a philosophical debate raging alongside the burgeoning field of computer science theory on the nature of consciousness, in which machines of artificial intelligence served as a thought experiment to question humanity. Yet with the proliferation of data and the centralization of its archives, theoretical practice moved from conceptual experiments to empirical tests.
Machines have long been integral to architectural discourse. Vitruvius concluded his ten books with a meditation on war machines, and Le Corbusier published on his industrial muses just over 100 years ago. Yet something is different today. We have always learned from machines—our societies are fundamentally shaped by their processes—but now, machines learn. We live in paradoxical times. Machinic processes, computational algorithms and artificial intelligence have never been so proximate, direct, and intimate to daily life, yet we are many steps removed from their practical operations.
This issue of Volume, the third in our Learning series, seeks to take one small step in the direction towards understanding the contemporary relevance of machines for architecture, and one giant leap for mankind. Volume #49: Hello World! also includes In Loving Support, a 32-page insert produced with Het Nieuwe Instituut on living and working with algorithms.
Volume #48: The Research Turn is comprised entirely of interviews and conversations. We wanted to learn from those who have been instrumental in shifting the boundaries and shaping today’s landscape of creative knowledge production. The issue also includes the catalogue for BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions by Malkit Shoshan, the Dutch contribution to the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale.
Over the coming weeks Volume will share a curated selection of essays from this issue on ArchDaily. This represents the continuation of a partnership between two platforms with global agendas: in the case of ArchDaily to provide inspiration, knowledge and tools to architects across the world and, in the case of Volume, "to voice architecture any way, anywhere, anytime [by] represent[ing] the expansion of architectural territories and the new mandate for design."
The movement and management of sediment is arguably the largest continuous project of spatial manipulation on the planet. This ongoing battle between geology and industry is most apparent through the act of dredging. Dredging is the excavation, gathering, transport, and disposal of sediment from subaquatic areas, enacted to maintain depths of shipping channels, harbors, and ports as well as to reclaim land, create sea defences, and remove toxic chemicals. The primary impetus for dredging is to sustain logistical routes for the shipping industry by countering the forces of erosion, movement, and settling of sediments. Like the logistics of the global shipping industry it serves, dredging is a continual process whose magnitude and significance have fostered their own series of ‘geologics’ – the engineering of material processes that operate in temporal and spatial scales that are geological in scope. Currently in the United States alone, more than four hundred ports and over 25,000 miles of navigation channels are being dredged.
In 2006 Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Brazilian President Lula da Silva and Argentinean President Néstor Kirchner proposed the construction of a gas pipeline connecting Venezuela to Brazil and Argentina, called the Gran Gasoduto del Sur. Although the project was never built, its path through the Amazon rainforest foregrounds the violent nature of resource extraction. At the same time, the project raised unique questions regarding the architecture of collective politics, particularly if understood in the context of the last fifteen years of political transformations throughout Latin America.
Volume is an "agenda-setting" quarterly magazine, published by the Archis Foundation (The Netherlands). Founded in 2005 as a research mechanism by Ole Bouman (Archis), Rem Koolhaas (OMA*AMO), and Mark Wigley (Columbia University Laboratory for Architecture/C-Lab), the project "reaches out for global views on designing environments, advocates broader attitudes to social structures, and reclaims the cultural and political significance of architecture."
Over the next six weeks Volume will share a curated selection of essays from The System* on ArchDaily. This represents the start of a new partnership between two platforms with global agendas: in the case of ArchDaily to provide inspiration, knowledge and tools to architects across the world and, in the case of Volume, "to voice architecture any way, anywhere, anytime [by] represent[ing] the expansion of architectural territories and the new mandate for design."
Volume Magazine in advance of their 47th issue, The System*.
Two recent trends have recently emerged from the United States’ real estate market that pick up on societal transformations in the way architecture and the city is inhabited. If synchronized, they stand to alter the principles under-riding contemporary logics of urban development. They do so by embodying an alternative system of values, framing its spatial articulation as a critical design project. The purpose of this short text is to present the two trends next to one another, evaluate the prospects of their synchronization, and speculate toward the future they potentiate in unison.
Launch of Volume #37: "Is this not a pipe?".
In preparation for its December issue, entitled The Law and its Consequences, Volume Magazine is holding an open call for examples of local laws that have had unintended - or just unusual - consequences for our cities. The issue asks: "If we consider the law to be a piece of design, can we apply design intelligence to the law?"
The law has a long history of affecting a city's character. Perhaps the earliest design stipulation is contained in the book of Deuteronomy (22:8): "In case you build a new house, you must also make a parapet for your roof, that you may not place bloodguilt upon your house because someone falling might fall from it." Since then, laws such as fire regulations, zoning restrictions and preservation guidelines have become an everyday conundrum for architects, ultimately affecting the outcome of design. But these laws often create unexpected loopholes, which can lead to peculiar design quirks that come to define a city's sense of place.
Read on after the break for just some examples of the consequences of the law
Guilt has been effectively used to control and manipulate the masses. But it can also be the start of a change for the better: awareness, concern, action. Engagement and guilt are never far apart. Engagement is sublimated guilt. We can build on guilt, but can we build with guilt? Is guilt a material to design with?
Full index and more info after the break