The Project of Everything
There are two ways of human consciousness – research and project based. They are certainly intertwined and often co-exist in one person. But in any case, one of them prevails and determines the character, behavior and, ultimately, the biography of a person. By the word "person" I mean one of reason, thinking, reflecting, meditating and creating. Two types of mental work essentially determine the fate of that person, his character and way of life.
According to the depiction of human behavior, it is immediately evident whether one is a researcher or a designer. Researchers are bothersome, picky, boring and often dangerous for the processes of development. Designers are intrusive, self-confident, ignorant and dangerous for public peace. Examples of people with project-type thinking are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Both haven’t received a higher education.
An example of a person with research-type thinking is Charles Darwin. He researched everything he could, but couldn’t manage the design stage and was unable to come up with anything better than a primitive theory of evolution. Now it becomes quite obvious that evolution is only a part of the mysterious and powerful mechanism of creation, and evolution alone is not enough to understand this mechanism.
Much closer to the truth were world religions, with their images of the Creator, his companions - saints, angels, and enemies - devils, infidels ... The mechanism of creating religions is a vivid example of project-thinking. They didn’t research practically anything. They wrote, designed and relied entirely on their imagination. All these magnificent collections of fairy tales - the Torah, the Bible, the Koran, are projects. Like all brilliant projects, they were created without any pre-project research. Simply by inspiration.
This does not mean that all researchers are bad, and all designers are good.
Communism, for example, was designed, as was National Socialism. At the time researchers are sometimes quite capable of benefiting. Especially in cases where they know their place and don’t try to draw some kind of conclusions from their studies. The biggest misfortune of pure researchers, devoid of design potential, is that, not being able to cover all aspects of the problem (it's excusable), they often leave the most important outside the framework of their endeavors (this is not excusable). This is the price for "objectivity," which in this case is an eloquence of the lack of imagination.
It is interesting that research is always collective, while project insights occur in deep solitude, where the word "we" isn’t known. Why are "doctors" and "scientists" always mentioned in the plural, and "inventor" is always just single? Because to collect data, do and study the analysis is more effective collectively, and no group is able to invent anything. The mention of doctors can cause objections, they say there are brilliant doctors. No, it is up to the doctor to analyze the situation and prescribe a treatment that is permitted by the guidelines. The doctor always remains an investigator. It categorically isn’t allowed for him to invent, to design.
It is exactly the same situation in other types of intellectual activity, including attempts to understand the structure and meaning of the universe in which we live.
Variations of models of the universe, created on the basis of "objective research", depend on the current circumstances, accumulated mistakes, chronic and acute absurdities, as well as instruments to justify or refute what was done. Much more attractive and close to the truth (truths?) are poetic models, which fortunately were not preceded by painful research, excavations, studies of "primary sources", scientific seminars, round tables, etc. Moreover, there are spheres, "studies" which are simply unthinkable tools of knowledge.
There remains another way. Illumination that turns into design. One can design everything - history, geography, biology. Something from the models obtained in such an adventurous way can turn out to be a prophecy, both for the future and for the past. If no excavations help to understand "how it was", it remains to be "designed". It is likely that the project will be more true than the results of all the carefully done spectral analyses.
I want to propose one of those models (projects?) of the emergence, structure and development of everything.
Let's start with an oak. Or rather with an acorn. The acorn contains all the information about the morphology and development of the future oak. More precisely not the information, but the program. It is horrible to imagine its volume, it records the most complicated structure of the trunk, branches, leaves, roots, all these patterns, veins, contours, the whole biography of growth. Who wrote this program? The oak? And what about the oak program? The forest? And the forest program? Planet Earth? A program for the emergence, structure and development of the planet? The universe? And the program of the universe? And the program of the universe is the next level of the universe that is inaccessible to our imagination, and then another level, then again and again...
The best of all, the idea of such a multi-level structure, where each subsequent level includes all the previous ones, the layers can grow in both directions, and the whole system can grow infinitely, the best of all is that this idea was embodied by the ancient Chinese bone carvers who created the famous ball-in-ball design. The idea of an endless build-up of layers for technological reasons wasn’t completely embodied in this elegant metaphor, and the most skillful carver brought the number of layers included in one another to forty-two.
Did the nameless Chinese master know what exactly he himself modeled? Maybe he knew. He was a man with brilliant design thinking (or rather feeling?) and created a metaphor of two ideas at once - the idea of multi-layered infinity of the morphology of the universe and the idea of multi-level programming, where each program is created by a set of top-level “overprograms”, and generates many sub-programs of the lower one. This model begins to work at a time when we understand that the material from which the balls are made is information. This is the key point. Information organized in the form of programs.
Unfortunately today there are no tools with which one can confirm or deny the possibility of the existence of such a model. It is believed that a step towards understanding can be made with the help of a quantum computer. Hopes begin to emerge that this computer, which runs millions of times faster than a normal one, will make it possible to solve tasks that are not available for today's computers. In particular, it will make it possible to study a huge number of layers of the universe, inaccessible to the current toolkit. Many zeros will be added to the number of 42, which the Chinese carver reached.
The modern computer operates by bits of information using a binary system - zero and one. A quantum computer operates on qubits, quantum bits, each of which cannot be in two, but in three states, the third of which implies the simultaneous presence of zero and one. It seems that the technology of the future will depart from the bisexual paradigm and will be based on the third-sex (homosexual?). I'm kidding...
Observing the substantive world man created from the standpoint of understanding (rather a premonition) the model of the multi-layered structure of nature and civilization and multilayered management, programming, designing of this substantive diversity, it is possible to see in what rudimentary, primitive state the substantive-based environment of his existence created by man is today.
A glance from the multi-layered sphere of programs at our civilization makes one think a lot. For example, take a look at the creativity of the architect. For thousands of years, he's crawling like an ant on the surface of one of 42 (or 42 thousand) spheres, designing a house: a hut, a pyramid, a bank, a skyscraper, a prison ... All these objects, regardless of the author’s genius, succumb on the day completion of construction. Either because they are not capable of change, development. They are dead. The city is a cemetery of houses. Even the most striking works of Zaha Hadid, Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry don’t go beyond the "house" level of the spherical programming model.
Everything came from the fact that the main (single?) object of the architect's attention is the house, that is to say, just an atom, a molecule of the city. The city as a whole is engaged in some kind of mythical "town planning", which no one has seen, and which nothing is drafted.
Enough of designing houses. This is some kind of protracted childhood illness of mankind. Let's look at modern, fast growing cities in Asia, the Arab oil East. The parade of ambitions. The crowd obscures one another, hovering over each other, hysterical towers, the sole purpose of which is to convince people that it is the best. What an annoying stereotype of the house - something sticking out of the ground... No matter whatever the height of skyscrapers which were built today, the city still remains firmly attached to the surface of the earth. What misery... And if it were different?
I want to imagine what happens when people stop designing individual buildings and will take on the city in its entirety and an object of meaningful design. The buildings, roads, bridges, parks and reservoirs from separate private, unrelated, ends unto themselves, will turn into details of a mega-drawing. I don’t see the city in the form of a flat chessboard, on which kings and pawns are placed (the most varied kinds), but in the form of a three-dimensional structure, a network structure. Such a network is three-dimensional in the form of a tree crown: vertical trunks, can be curved like trunks of trees. The trunk of roads (straight, curved, horizontal, inclined, vertical) penetrate the crown, communications and habitable supports. A three-dimensional curvilinear lattice with node-crowns. One that is bionic, three-dimensional, certainly capable of changing the network.
Dwellings, factories, theaters, stadiums, museums don’t crawl any more on land, but fill the cavities of a three-dimensional network ("city" according to the old definition). Let's look at Atomium in Brussels (1958). The idea was such, but everything organic was in plastic, more complex and gigantic. Such a 3-dimensional city frees the surface of the earth for nature, forests, rivers, creeks, mountains (and agriculture). It can be erected above a waterway - a creek, a strait, a river, a lake, an ocean... The city is a bridge. By the way there were inhabited bridges already - Ponte Vecchio in Florence or Ponte Rialto in Venice. Imagine such a Ponte Vecchio of the future between the towers, giant and populated, hovering over forests, lakes, rivers, deserts, ice...
Similar projects already exist. For example, the NeoTax project for the eVolo 2011 Skyscraper Competition. Or the John Wardle Architects project called Multiplicity which shows a huge metropolis, growing not in breadth, but up and down. To move around the city, it is suggested to use underground and air routes, and to create a common transparent "roof" above the whole city, which will serve for growing food, collecting water and solar energy. Another example is the Lilypad project. This ecological city in the ocean is by the Belgian architect Vincent Kallebo. Despite the fact that these projects don’t go beyond the framework of competitive futurology, they are encouraging and promise that the Earth will finally be able to gradually free itself from under dirty heels and asses of cities and breathe again. All this can be realized if we go to the next level of our multi-sphere model. Treat the building only as a detail of a higher-level object.
Today's city, from forever paralyzed houses can only expand, or rather swell, gradually turning into a space incompatible with life. That which cannot change is doomed. Some heroic architects occasionally take up the city as a whole, but this does not cover it. This is excluded on the surface of today's software sphere. There is only one architect who feels that the so-called architecture has come to a standstill, it's the Chilean Alejandro Aravena. His structures are capable of development. This gives hope that the archaic architecture and the failed "town planning" are gradually mutating into multi-layered design, covering not one, but many programmed (programming) layers of life.
Another factor that can have a serious impact on the fate of architecture is the growing interest in parametric design. This is the case when development at a higher program level (the spherical layer, if it remains within the framework of our model) initiates programming and morphological changes on much lower layers. For the time being, parametric technologies affect purely visual characteristics of structures. That is to say, the algorithms for transforming volumes, spaces and forms transform structures only within the framework of the design process, and then are forever frozen in the morphology of the architectural object, like traces of a disembodied dream or an updated version of the Portuguese manueline. That is, all these various fractals, perforations on the walls, folds, variable curvature of the surfaces, they are the result of movement. Why does it freeze in the material, but live only on the designer's screen?
But parametric operations can work not only in the design process. Algorithmic ornaments can continue their rhythmic dances in the process of the entire life activity of the structure. In the daytime the surface of the house can be one thing, and at night quite different. At night, for example, very different windows are needed. Have we really been sentenced for centuries to draw and open curtains, drapes, blinds... The arrival of winter and summer, rain and winds should also prompt a dynamic morphology of the structure. And why should the layout of the house remain fixed? By the way, the plan of the Japanese dwelling is much more flexible than the European one and this dynamism is achieved with the help of screens.
Parametrism must come to life and cease to be only just an imitation of something else, real. In the meantime, it is similar to the Cargo Cult, when, after the Second World War, the Melanesian natives built scenery reminiscent of airfields and waited for the next arrival of aircraft with food and beer. They put on their "headphones" made from coconut halves and shouted into bamboo microphones, urging the Americans, having flown away, to return... So also is the fixed parametrism, only depicting shifts, oscillations, stretches, bends, decrease-increase, but all this is in a frozen state.
From the city and the house we move to the residential interior. There is nothing more neglected, stagnant and anti-human than the state of the human dwelling. Just like the city, no one has ever professionally designed it. It is the same unfortunate layer of the sphere metaphor of the programming of the environment. In general, the word is somewhat antediluvian, “interior”. It implies that in the empty space, filling the womb of the architectural subject, some kind of people come and put or hang something there. Things filling the "interior" are designed, programmed in complete isolation from the whole which they will have to constitute. Armchairs, tables, sofas, racks, washbasins, televisions... Among them are masterpieces of world design, but, becoming a part of the “ensemble”, they only aggravate the chaos. This program sphere fell out of the ingenious Chinese toy and rolls on the floor to nowhere...
I've seen one variation of a residential space that didn’t irritate me in all my life. This is a ryokan - a Japanese country inn. There is NOTHING in the room. On one of the walls is a window with a sliding screen. Pairs of screens are on the other walls - behind them are containers. There is a table 30 centimeters in height. They sit on the floor on pillows. Paradise. The Japanese live on two levels - the floor and the table. Everything else - tables, couches, cupboards and other garbage are absent.
Outside of Japan, for the foreseeable period of time, the prospects for changing the situation are not apparent. I think salvation will come from an unexpected side. From the computerization, digitalization of intellectual space. First, desks, bookcases and shelves with books will disappear. Open fire on me from all kinds of small arms, throw stones at me, but the paper book disappears. The speed and breadth of access to any source of information in the digital environment are incomparable with the search, access and retrieval of necessary information in the paper world. In addition, it will help save forests, which are destroyed for making paper.
Removing book shelves and desks from the home, I think, will open the designer’s eyes to what a living space can become. The European dwelling, unlike the Japanese one, is a three-level: a floor, a couch and a table. Plus verticals - cabinets, shelving on the walls. Many Asian cultures manage on one level. What will happen, when many processes related to paper disappear (from reading and writing to drafting), is difficult to say, but much will change. The 90-degree paradigm of a residential space can change: a horizontal-vertical with a clear level-gradation can be replaced by curvilinear surfaces. Don’t forget that we once lived in caves of beautiful curvature.
What I am talking about isn’t the result of research or prediction. This is more than the first and second. This is a project. Let’s take a window. What kind of window should it be? The project: changeable transparency until its absence. In sunny weather - partly a light source, partly a solar battery. In the winter – a heater. It is, upon request - a screen. We don’t need a window shining in our eyes when we interact with the screen, television, computer (soon to merge). All these glass (?) surfaces will also work as a screen. Walls with pictures? Never again. A digital electronic wall. Call up any masterpieces of world art or portraits of loved ones on it. I foresee objections: “The hand of the master, canvas, touch...” For God's sake. What I'm writing is a project, and not the combat regulations of the infantry. In any case, things will become less. Mankind will breathe a sigh of relief.
Such disparate thoughts arise when trying to imagine our habitat, history and prospects of its development in the form of a multi-layered spherical programming model. This project is based on the idea of including Information in the number of physical parameters of the universe. Never did physics treat Information with the same attention as mass, speed and energy. The theory of relativity, the theory of the big bang and the debate about whether the universe can return back to the “pre-explosive” state, could be different if Information became one of the physical concepts and elements of the universe. The search for God, in my opinion, is nothing more than an instinctive attempt to fill this gap. Information, organized in the program form, is most likely the god in which Einstein believed, unlike the God he did not believe in. But then there were no quantum computers and programmers and he could not include Information in the number of basic physical parameters of the universe.
Dmitry Azrikan, PhD in Arts