This was 6 years, 11 months, 13 days ago

(revelation below:)

Yearning, as in a thinking-towards-somewhere-else, not necessarily as in about someone, or somewhere specific. Yearning as in 'the thing that puts a spring in your step as you walk between tall buildings at night'. Usually it tastes like a core, something solid and textured and impenetrable, like a peach pit you roll around in your mouth, something experienced only by you, utterly private, solid, unyielding.

As in: how do you acquire knowledge? How do you acquire tacit knowledge? What do you do when complexity ensures that the ingredients of a process manifest in a highly complex output, so that operation feels like tweaking the inputs of a multilayer feedforward neural net, neither blind stabbing nor intelligent calculation?

All models are wrong, and some are just helpful, so part of the practice of living entails the continuous modification of one's model. But abstractions/models are leaky, continually require compromises. Database ORMs engage in the process of helping you model the world and map relationships between them, which can be both helpful and incorrect.

To ask an impossible question - How do you make a building that makes everyone happy? A: you can't. But then the answer is neither to swing the other way into monastic autonomous self-inquiry, clearly. No clear answers are found by saying "the answer is somewhere in the middle" - rather, all questions start there. The neural inputs / elements / processes that really modify the end result/experience, the lived experience of perceived space, is far beyond the reaches and scope of what architectural practice often seems to define, in the way that culinary school that focuses on the craft of cooking is not enough for you to create a restaurant that restores your faith in New York, if not in humanity.

Then what? Blame complexity for always engendering a kind of paranoia, or endless graph traversal, depth-first-searching the annals of Wikipedia and potential factors/actors/repercussions alike. If the enjoyment of the brownie you bake is ultimately determined by the meal you just ate beforehand, do you rewrite your personal practice to encompass becoming a nutritionist and statistician of dietary habits?

-

Etc. etc. etc. I find my metaphors swirling around computer science, because I know no other language with which complexity is described and talked about, know no other world in which a series of simple objects are mashed together, cooked, formulated into a series of systems, dynamics, events, processes, wound up tight like springs and ready to launch and play out. Spaces do that, but the discussion isn't there.

-

One thing that I get irrationally angry at, (in a quick and light kind of anger, as if it were a gust of warm spring wind that pushes you off kilter for a moment) and still don't know whether or not I should get angry at:

is when complexity gets black-boxed, when the mass-production of commodities turn materials (and labor) into reproducible solid objects that seem to be ontologically stable ('clay is anything, but this flowerpot has, is and will always be a flowerpot'), and when we lose sight of this aspect; when these things are instrumentalized, flattened, black-boxed away, I can't help but be angry/sad at this loss, because it feels like the hardening of a model that may not always be helpful.

This is tricky, because these material assemblages push themselves towards black-boxing, stability, and so on. The anchor a free-climber uses to take a break from climbing a cliff involves a metal device so thin and delicate that it might seem astounding that lives are supported by these devices; at the same time, they've been used so often, produced so often, that the device itself becomes relied upon. It has a name that starts to give it a signifier for which it can be understood as a singular object. It has a quality control process that attempts to make all the forms similar. It has a warranty that offers economic reliability/stability/continuity for anyone using the object. At the end of 1,501 five-star Amazon reviews, you have a device that starts to take on an identity of its own, warps space into place to formulate a hardened, enameled shell -- black-boxes itself becoming a Thing that you carefully decide not to think about. What is the metal tempering process? What kind of alloys make the metal more or less brittle? You sweep these thoughts to the side; all you know is that this thing does what it's supposed to.

And? What about everything? Websites, chairs, buildings, air conditioners, cars, parties, spaces, music, cabling, wiring, emails, food, clothing? Is not everything borne out of a process? Is not everything immensely complex? Even this list of words is a completely placeholder; the word 'website' becomes less defined the more of a developer you become. Is it MVC, MVVM, MVP?

The important thing to this all is not that everything born has an origin, but rather than everything breaks, and details are important. Healthcare.gov excoriated and users delayed because of a badly architected website that couldn't handle loads; surely at that point the government black-boxed out a website and got someone who Builds Websites to make the thing. After all, how hard could it be? A climbing anchor is a piece of metal, a water bottle is a thing of plastic, and a website is the thing you get when you go online. Yet in these details, the specifics of the website, and its interface, affects whether or not people sign up; yes, "technology affecting the social", as if bureaucracy wasn't anything more than logistical delays
and waiting lines transforming into emotional/social oppression.


And then, walking one evening in a bitter cold it hits me: that is the role of language, of terminology! The world is complex, and controlling/defining/speaking about the scope of complexity is a task that the world takes on and develops terminology, verbiage, words, for. Words are not consensus-oriented, nor are they democratic; two people makes a language, two people makes a term. Words proliferate, spread, propagate. Words are the mechanism with which the description of different complex patterns/systems are grouped together. Is there any coincidence that a house is called a house? It may also be because, in many context, the house becomes distinct fro m its constituent arguments. Or - in other words - the complex world is comprehended, desperately, inaccurately, and probability-wise.

What that means is that society is a parallel computing device, that discussions are where decisions are borne, that discoveries are necessarily shared, that complexity is something that you can rely on society to (at least) arrive at some normative view of. Because, if it weren't, it would change.

There are no answers here, only a series of questions, and sometime it's only at the brink of lucidity and clarity that you realize the degree to which jetpacks / motivation is important, the damn-it-all clarity of youth piercing through like an invincible lance; sometime's it's all just that.