We the People are not sentenced to Dystopia. We can create homes for ourselves and our true capacitance. Now more than ever is this possible; now more than ever is this crucial. Because we face an uncertain future of mistrust between cultures, of precarious natural circumstances, and of pandoran consequences, our architecture must express the most appropriate convictions in the face of this uncertainty. These convictions are articles of faith and utility alike. They are the garden beds within which we must cultivate the seeds of our hopes.
My faith lies in the process of discovery, invention, critique, and hope. It is a process of never ending growth and undying optimism in the face of our greatest challenges. Much of what comes to mind as I write this is from the philosophy of David Deutsch as written in The Beginning of Infinity. There are two axioms at the beginning of the book that he builds from:
- There will always be problems
- All problems are soluble
From these axioms, Deutsch builds a framework for working with the Universe to uncover the objective reality at its core. This uncovering is a double-sided process of never-ending returns. On the one hand, as more truths are uncovered, more problems are made apparent. These problems may be of a curious nature, as in the problem becomes of interest to one or more people in and of itself, while other problems may be of a mortal nature, as in the problem directly relates to the mortality of one or more people. On the other hand, as truths are uncovered, the solutions to these problems may become apparent. These solutions may provide a lens from which to view the Universe in a more clear way, or they may offer an entirely new perspective on the Universe such that it is no longer the Universe we thought we existed within.
These axioms are held to be self-evident. Within them is not just faith, but immense power. There is always hope, even when faced with the most troubling problems of mortal significance. As people come to know each other through bottlenecks of misunderstanding and a milieu of violence or disinformation, there is still hope that one day we can exist with a better understanding of each other and our shared circumstances. These axioms have the power to give us both hope and working principles to guide us through the radical and unpredictable change of the climate during our shift into the Anthropocene. As we devise and construct new artifacts for our pleasure or benefit, should (read when) these artifacts pose new problems of deep significance, we have first principles from which to devise appropriate solutions.
This way of thinking and living is in many respects my guiding light. It shifts thinking in a profound way, by reminding us of how we got to this incredible point in human history in the first place. By learning to engage with the Universe in all of its dimensions – physical, rational, imaginative, spiritual – we have built communities of resilience, ingenuity, and reflection. We continue building in the face of failure so that we may not only succeed in our attempts to pass on good lives to our descendants, but also so that we may continue to uncover what exactly goodness itself is. This is crucial as problems mount in both complexity and number. Therefore it is important that we paint stories of our future in which we succeed in passing on our best traits to coming generations so that they in turn may pass on their best traits to those that follow them.
With all of this said, to what should these axioms be directly applied to now?
Because of climate change, among other factors, there is evidence to believe that there will be more refugee crises around the world. In turn, more economies will fail, which will cause the destruction of nation-states, resulting in further geo-political turbulence. Within this period, borders and identities will shift so quickly and so dramatically that social existence may come to be increasingly aligned with presence upon the layer of human reality constructed by the Internet and its social/market networks. Empires will continue to exist, and they will hold on very strongly to their notions of citizenship, borders, and hegemony. But within and outside of these Empires, fissures will prove nutritious to cultures of decentralized identity. Guerrilla will evolve rapidly through digital incubation, and those incubators which are rich in resources along with conflict will make the most robust of the adaptive movements.
These may seem like pretty wild predictions, but I think they are flexible and spacious enough for fruition. Of course there will be surprises and variation, but the developments in both the militarized use of social media (i.e. espionage, social engineering) and the rapid uptake of the blockchain paradigm seem to show a different kind of internet than what was predicted at its onset.
So where does Deutsch’s philosophy of optimism come into play?
To me it breaks open every idea taken as standard and makes it ripe for radical reconsideration. In a past post i mentioned projects that were redesigning the means by which we created and distributed the most crucial human resources – food, water, medicine, space, communication networks, schools. These redesigns will allow for community to pop up in places where civilization could not prosper in the past. Including the middle of the desert, or the middle of the ocean, or deep below ground.
I’ll break into these projects in more depth in my next post, along with where they fall short and where they show incremental promise. But here they are (partially) listed:
- Water-Gen: Atmospheric water capture and filtration
- Khan Academy: Free/online applied learning
- Local Roots: Vertical Indoor Farming
- Wireless Mesh Networking
- Four Thieves Vinegar: Make Your Own Medicine
- Ethereum: Blockchain App Platform
- Open Source Ecology: Open Source Homesteading Equipment
- Open Source Solar
- Open Source Seed Initiative
- New Harvest: Open Source Meat Culturing
- Rep Rap: Open Source 3D Printing/CNC
- Desktop PCB Printer
- OSVehicle: Open Source Modular Electric Car Platform
- Hacking Households: Open Sourcing and Redesigning Everyday Objects
- Wired: Open Source Home Appliances
- Open Source Integrated Clinical Environment
- CalEarth: “We believe shelter is a human right, and every person can build a home”
It is projects like these that put research into the hands of the public at large and will enable the development of the truly “Smart” cities of the future. By opening up the cornerstone(s) of society to redesign and critique, we can make our cities and in turn our selves increasingly adaptive and resilient in these deeply uncertain times. This penchant for adaptation is my faith. It is my hope. And most importantly, it is my practice.