“Thank you for being late” | Thomas Friedman | Jan. 2016 | Stockholm Resilience Centre (web video)

Directly after the World Economic Forum, @tomfriedman described his upcoming book “Thank you for being late” in conversation with Johan Rockström at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

[05:45]  I was deeply influenced a year and a half ago by a book I read called The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andy McAfee.  What they argued was that the first machine age was built on the steam engine which doubled in power every seventy years.   But we’re now in the second machine age.  And the second machine age is built on the microchip which, according to Moore’s Law, doubles in power every 24 months.

[7:10] So what I told them was, you guys, I  love your theory, but it’s incomplete as an explanation of the world, because there are two other forces that just entered the second half there of their chessboard at the same time.  They are the other two largest forces on the planet.

[7:26] One is the market — that’s my shorthand for globalization — and the other is mother nature — that’s climate and biodiversity loss.

[17:08] I have three chapters that are interrelated.  The first is about mother nature as mentors and model, which comes out out of biomimicry.   I believe that what we’ve created with our hands now is a system of systems, a network of networks and network of data telecommunications that is more interconnected — hyper-connected — interdependent and complex that it mirrors only one other thing in our experience.   And that’s the natural world.

[41:08] So we actually started the story about Egypt, in Salina, Kansas, in the heart of the wheat belt in America.   I did an interview with Wes Jackson, who is an amazing bioscientist trying to develop a perennial form — a sustainable form — of wheat. And he was explaining to me the prairie.  And said, Tom, you need to understand that the prairie was a natural permaculture.  It was a system that naturally fertilized and pollinated and created its own natural pesticide.  What we did is when we came out here — the white Europeans — we plowed up the prairie and we’ve planted monoculture crops: wheat, corn and sorghum.   And to be sustained they needed massive amounts of high-density fossil fuels in the form of tractors, pesticides and fertilizers.  When the dust bowl happened, all the monoculture crops died.  And all of the prairie survived — the main parts of the prairie — because they’re naturally polycultural resilient, a healthy and good dependent system.

[42:22] And when he said that, I said that’s really interesting, what do think Al Qaeda is doing?  Al Qaeda, in the Middle East, is trying to wipe out the polyculture of the Islamic world.    And the Islamic world was at its most economic and greatest political power, when?  When, Moorish Spain, between the 8th and 13th century, when it was the world’s greatest culture of good, ideas and trade. They’re trying to wipe out Islamist as polyculture and instead — and by the way they’re leveraging high-density fossil fuels from oil states — to wipe out the culture of the Muslim world and replace it with a monoculture that’s enormously susceptible to diseased ideas.

“A conversation with Thomas Friedman” | January 2016 | Stockholm Resilience Center Slow Talk at http://www.stockholmresilience.org/21/research/research-news/1-28-2016-a-conversation-with-thomas-friedman.html

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“Why Societies Collapse” | Joseph Tainter | 2010 | Local Future (web video)

Updating from The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988), Joseph Tainter describes sociopolitical complexity, and “what it means for us”.

The talk mentions colleague Timothy F. H. Allen, but doesn’t surface the idea of complicatedness that appears in their joint publications.

“Why Societies Collapse — and What It Means for Us” | Joseph A. Tainter | November 2010 | Local Future 2010 International Conference on Sustainability (Prince Conference Center, Grand Rapids, Michigan), described at http://localfuture.org/conferences.htm .

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“I hate Karl Marx” | Rainer Ganahl | 2010 (web video)

I laughed out loud @KiasmaMuseum at @rainerganahl 2010 video “I hate Karl Marx”, but the humour didn’t seem to be appreciated by others.

Here’s a description from the artist:

For this video playing in the year 2045 Karl Marx has reincarnated as Chinese. He controls the world and the entire world is Chinese, speaks Chinese, dresses and eats Chinese (the same way it is today English/American). Marx’s specter to haunt the world could not be stopped by any capitalist alliance. The young German lady speaking and screaming entirely in Chinese suffers a melt down in front of Marx’ statue on Karl Marx Allee expressing her discontent and opposition.

The appreciation of Karl Marx is described by Rainer Ganahl more fully at http://www.ganahl.info/karlmarx.html:

I see Marx as an socio-economic thinker who came up with the best analysis of his generation. He was the first one to properly grasp the full impact of industrialization and its consequences on people in relationship to the entire economic system.

He did do that with an ethical eye, a drive for social and economic justice and a good portion of wishful teleological thinking one can share or not

This work of art could be described by Stuart Candy as “Journalism from the Future“.

I hate Karl Marx

“I hate Karl Marx” | Rainer Ganahl | 2010 (web video) at http://www.ganahl.info/Ihatekarlmarx.html

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John E. Kelly III | “The Future of Cognitive Computing” | Oct. 13, 2015 | IBM (web video)

From the 2015 Cognitive_ColloquiumSF, at http://research.ibm.com/cognitive-computing/#sf, there’s a video:

  • Kelly, John E., III. 2015. The Future of Cognitive Computing. Web Video. Third Annual IBM Research Cognitive Colloquium: Augmenting Human Intelligence. Mission Bay Conference Center at USCF. research.ibm.com/cognitive-computing/#sf.

Watching the video, here are some personal notes, with timecodes:

[10:35] The first era of computing:  1900-1940s Tabulating Systems Era; second 1950s Programmable Systems Era (but will run out of programmers); 2011 — ? Cognitive Computing Era, will be as different as Programmable from Tabulating

[16:20] Man and machine will beat man or machine

[16:25] Human capabilities: Compassion, intuition, design, value judgments (moral value), common sense (unless they can ever be quantified)

[16:55] Machine capabilities:  Deep learning (instant recall of everything, source to all knowledge), discovery (capability to start to reason), large-scale math, fact checking

[17:20] Human + machine: human beings have a normal distribution of capabilities, but with human + machine, can move the distribution

[18:30] How do we get the synergy between man and machine?

[18:40] Since Jeopardy, this field has lit up: image processing, optimizing buying behavior, signal processing of voice.  But they’re all point solutions

[19:25] IBM trying to build a while toolkit, like the System/360 in 1964.

[20:10] Watson capability, put into cloud (so could scale), decomposed the Question & Answering system into five technologies:  machine learning, question analysis, natural language processing, feature engineering, ontology analysis

[20:40] Build out a suite of services on the Watson cloud that are composable assets.

[22:50] Essence of cognitive capability: first is learning at scale, reasoning or developing insights with the data, with a goal, interacting with humans.

For the video, there’s a slide-by-slide breakdown as “The Future of Cognitive Computing” | Andrew Trice | November 23, 2015 | IBM Bluemix Dev at https://developer.ibm.com/bluemix/2015/11/23/future-of-cognitive-computing/

The dawn of the Cognitive Era

The Future of Cognitive Computing (transcript by Andrew Trice)


The associated white paper is at:

On “The technical path forward and the science of what’s possible”:

Programmable systems are based on rules that shepherd data through a series of predetermined processes to arrive at outcomes. While they are powerful and complex, they are deterministic — ­ thriving on structured data, but incapable of processing qualitative or unpredictable input. This rigidity limits their usefulness in addressing many aspects of a complex, emergent world, where ambiguity and uncertainty abound.

Cognitive systems are probabilistic, meaning they are designed to adapt and make sense of the complexity and unpredictability of unstructured information. They can “read” text, “see” images and “hear” natural speech. And they interpret that information, organize it and offer explanations of what it means, along with the rationale for their conclusions. They do not offer definitive answers. In fact, they do not “know” the answer. Rather, they are designed to weigh information and ideas from multiple sources, to reason, and then offer hypotheses for consideration. A cognitive system assigns a confidence level to each potential insight or answer.  [p. 6]

A comparison to AI:

… a critical distinction between the technical approach to cognitive computing and other current approaches to Artificial Intelligence. Cognitive computing is not a single discipline of computer science. It is the combination of multiple academic fields, from hardware architecture to algorithmic strategy to process design to industry expertise.  [p. 7]

As compared to purpose-built, narrowly-focused applications:

Cognitive systems, in contrast, combine five core capabilities:

1. They create deeper human engagement: [….] They reason through the sum total of all this structured and unstructured data to find what reallymatters in engaging a person [….]

2. They scale and elevate expertise:  […]  these systems are taught by leading practitioners — whether in customer service, oncology diagnosis, case law or any other field — they make available to broad populations the know-how of the best.

3. They infuse products and services with cognition:  Cognition enables new classes of products and services to sense, reason and learn about their users and the world around them. This allows for continuous improvement and adaptation, and for augmentation of their capabilities to deliver uses not previously imagined. [….]

4. They enable cognitive processes and operations:  [….]  Business processes infused with cognitive capabilities capitalize on the phenomenon of data, from internal and external sources. This gives them heightened awareness of workflows, context and environment, leading to continuous learning, better forecasting and increased operational effectiveness — along with decision-making at the speed of today’s data.  [….]

5. They enhance exploration and discovery:  [….]  far better “headlights” into an increasingly volatile and complex future.  [….]  By applying cognitive technologies to vast amounts of data, leaders can uncover patterns, opportunities and actionable hypotheses that would be virtually impossible to discover using traditional research or programmable systems alone.  [p. 8]

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Jim Spohrer | “Empowering Makers in the Cognitive Era” |Aug. 10 2015 |ICER (web video + slides)

Keynote August 2015 @JimSpohrer ACM International Computing Education Research (ICER) Conference, Omaha, Nebraska

Slides available at http://www.slideshare.net/spohrer/spohrer-icer-20150810-v1.

[00:00 slide 1] Doug Englebart, Augmentation theory

[12:35 slide 10] Albert Einstein: I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction.  We will have a generation of idiots.

[13:55 slide 11] Intelligent Personal Assistant (in wikipedia)

[27:30 slide 26] Intelligence Augmentation (Englebart’s Vision)

[31:20 slide 28] T-Shaped Makers

[33:00 slide 30] By 2035, no one drives.  Cars drive themselves.

[38:00 slide 31]  Responsibility:  Can people drive today without getting a driver’s license?  Shouldn’t they understand some of the science behind it?

[38:45 slides 32-35] Natural systems (explain external phenomena), cognitive systems (explain internal phenomena), service systems (describe people interacting in win-win ways — value co-creation phenomena)

[40:15 slide 37] Cognitive Mediators, Smart Service System

“The difference between a service system and a cognitive system?  My dog is a cognitive system, by the way.  I love my dog.  But my dog has no rights and responsibilities.  Young children, elderly people with dementia, they’re cognitive systems, but they don’t have as many rights and responsibilities, as us mature and responsible people.  The way a cognitive system becomes a service system is when it sets up the rights and responsibilities that go along with being a member of a very productive society”.

Here’s the original abstract from http://icer.hosting.acm.org/icer-2015/icer-2015-keynote/.

After briefly surveying the history of knowledge, computing, programming, and software engineering, computing education will be reframed as empowering makers in the cognitive era. The makers’ movement is about the democratization of the tools of self-expression and production. From global cloud-based deployment of apps on smart phones to nano-manipulation of advanced materials in custom jewelry and clothing with open designs downloadable for 3D printers, software empowers makers to co-create value in smart service systems. Smart service systems are based on provider platforms that enable customer to interact and co-create value together. In addition, cognitive assistants for all business occupations and societal roles are beginning to appear democratizing access to knowledge and expertise in smart service systems.

Teaching about the elegance, not just correctness, of solutions and how they serve customers wants, needs, and aspiration will be of increasing importance. The implications for a next generation of students who “make a job, not just take a job” even before graduation will be explored. Also, issues of sustainability and resilience of smart service systems with empowered makers in the cognitive era will be explored. Rethinking the rights and responsibilities of empowered makers at all ages will require an especially close examination of the way teamwork is encouraged and rewarded in families, neighborhoods, and educational institutions.

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Hajo Neis, “Battle for Life and Beauty of the Earth: Urban Architecture and (Re)Generative Process” (web video) | April 14, 2014 | U. Oregon

Hajo Neis, co-author with Christopher Alexander on his 2012 book, lectured on experiences not only with the Eishin Campus in Japan in 1985, but also other works.
Hajo Neis

In this lecture Neis will report about the recently published book ‘Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth’ by Christopher Alexander, Hans Joachim Neis and Maggie Alexander, in which the authors present “a revolutionary vision for the human environment: in coming eras, the environment will be conceived, designed, made, and widely understood as a necessary part of our emotional and social life.” But the book also addresses a major problem in the production of today’s human environment, or the kind of problems you can encounter when you try to implement essential principles for a human and beautiful architecture in large-scale projects. The book can best be understood as an excellent example of the fascinating interplay between theory and practice, between thinking and making, with a deep concern for human life and the environment, and a battle worth fighting. Neis will show several more projects closely related to the book and its main topic and theme and the University of Oregon.

Below is some of the text from the slides.

[06:40] “Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth”, Urban Architecture and Re(Generative) Process, by Hajo Neis, Ph.D., Contents

  • Part A
    • 1. Urban Architecture – Portland
    • 2. BOOK: Battle for Life and Beauty of the Earth
    • 3. (Urban) Theory Part 1:  Generative Design Patterns and Pattern Language
    • 4. Project 1:  Eugene Campus (Agate and Amazon)
    • 5. Project 2:  Portland Campus – White Stag
    • 6. Project 3:  Eishin Campus – Tokyo
    • 7. Project 4:  Frankfurt Hoechst I
    • 8. Project 5:  Julian Inn – San Jose
  • Part B
    • (Urban) Theory Part II:  Dynamic Generative Process
    • 10. San Francisco Waterfront Project – Transbay Terminal
    • 11 Project 6:  Frankfurt Hoescht II
    • 12. Project 7: New University of Oregon Portland
    • 13. Project 8: Guasare New Town, Venezuela
    • 14. Project 9: Emoto Apartment Building – Tokyo
    • 15. Conclusion-Outlook:  Theory Part III Generative Code
    • Thank you

[9:33] Architect Prof. Christopher Alexander, Winner of the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture 2014

[10:46] Beauty, Sustainability, Social Justice, Urban Life

[11:21] Battle, p. 2

  • “The purpose of all architecture, the purpose of its spatial-geometric organization, is to provide opportunities for life-giving situations. The central issue of architecture, and its central purpose, is to create those configurations and social situations, which provide encouragement and support for life-giving comfort and profound satisfaction — sometimes excitement — so that one experiences life as worth living.  When this purpose is forgotten or abandoned, then there is indeed no architecture to speak of.”

[13:31] Battle cover jacket

  • “Achieving this vision will require an intensive lengthy global Battle between two production systems, System-B, the dominant production system today, seeks to profit from development and produce structures, through unfeeling mechanical procedures that destroy opportunities for joy and human satisfaction.  System-A, the alternative, allows meaning to be built-up progressively by benign, modest steps in the careful nurturing of our physical world.”

[14:40] Review – A Pattern of Abuse

[17:42] Why did it take so many years to finish the book Battle?

[19:39] “The Ordinary Way” – Early book title, 1983

  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. The contact
  • 2. The pattern language
  • 3. The site plan
  • 4. The << handwriting illegible >>
  • 5. Materials of construction
  • 6. Design of buildings
  • 7. Breaking ground
  • 8. The construction process
  • 9. First years in use

[20:14]  First pages of the book “The Ordinary Way”, 1983

  • The new Eishin university is a university entirely dedicated to the problem of the community and local autonomy.
  • It is founded on the simple belief that one great period of human society just ended, and that another is just beginning.
  • What they may call the modern age began at about the end of the fifteenth century.  We believe that is has ended about 1980, and that the last part of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, an entirely new age will be created.
  • A new age, in which new methods of production, and new human relationships will form the basis of society, is now about to begin.  One of the central ideas in the formation of this new age is the idea of local autonomy and local control.
  • This idea may be summarized in the German work “Gemeinschaft“.  It is also summarized by the old meaning of the Russian “soviet” even though this word even though this word has been entirely destroyed by its connection with 20th century Russian communism, and is described by some degree by the English word community.  All these concepts refer to a type of human group, in which personal relations and personal identification of people within the society form the basic interaction and also most important for the definition of the individual self.
  • However, the concept of Gemeinschaft is defined more succinctly by the inner idea of the world which people carry with them, and by the fundamental motive which guides these actions.
  • In brief, a Gemeinschaft is formed by a group of people whose actions large or small are guided by one simple principle: the idea that every act must somehow increase wholeness.
  • This single idea, applied to ethics, architecture, personal acts, family relations, political economy.  In short, to absolutely all actions and event which take place in a human society.
  • When this principle does form the basis for personal actions, this is entirely different from the situation which existed for the last five hundred years in the so called modern age.  In this recent period, actions have instead been guided by a variety of other motives, including money, efficiency, social justice and military power.  Even democracy, powerful as it may be as an idea, with its fundamental search for justice and equality, actually it fails entirely to provide the underlying motive which we may call wholeness.
  • In the same way, all forms of modern socialism, though searching for something better, have so far failed to grasp this need to see motives and human life, in an entirely different framework.

[22:58] CES List of Books since 1965

[24:24] The Eishin Highschool and College Campus in Tokyo – Japan 1984- Present

[25:46] Unpublished Chapter:  24.  Large Scale Building Production, Unification of the Human System and the Physical System

  • Published Chapter
  • 23. Elements are Being Created at the Same Time that the Whole is Being Created
  • 24. Following the Golden Glow

[28:59] Organic Tradition California – West Coast CES and HNA

  • With small and medium size buildings and projects we can create the kind of timeless quality of beauty and life relatively easily.
  • When it comes to larger projects, we can encounter a lot of problems and also opposition to the production of life and beauty.
  • We started a research project with the question:  Kinds of Production that can generate life and beauty in the world

[30:22]  PUARL

  • Portland Urban Architecture Research Laboratory http://puarl.uoregon.edu/, Hajo Neis, Director
  • Pattern Urban Architecture Research Laboratory

[32:17] Principles of Overall Pattern Language Approach

  • Meta-Principles
    • Wholeness
    • Growing Whiole
    • Wholeness and Sustainability
    • Wholeness in the Structure of the City
    • The City as a Growing Whole
    • Generative and Regenerative Processes
  • Primary Principles
    • Organic Order
    • Piecemeal Growth
    • Participation
    • Patterns and Pattern Languages
    • Structure Preserving Transformations
    • Adaptation
    • Formations of Centers and Fields of Centers
    • Formation of Larger Wholes
    • Formation of Positive Urban Open Space
    • Application of Geometric Properties
    • Application of Color Properties
    • Generative Design and Building Sequences
    • Integrated Design and Construction (Creative Production)
  • Other Principles and Techniques
    • Diagnosis and Coordination
    • Working Directly with the Building or Urban Area
    • Starting out with the Site
    • Primary Responsibility to the Building
    • Innovation through Building
    • etc.

[34.04] Portland Urban Architecture Research Laboratory PUARL:

  • PUARL Fields of Research and Investigation: Wholeness and Sustainability
    • BATTLE for the Life and Beauty of the Earth
  • Urban Morpholoogy and Urban Patterns
    • Portland Urban Atlas Project
    • Innovation City – Ruhr/Essen
  • Urban Building Typologies and Building Patterns
    • City of Tigard Downtown Vision and Improvement Project
    • Green Urban Campus – Essen
  • Design, Urban Process and Generative Process
    • University of Oregon Portland User and Pattern Design Process
  • Urban Ecology and Urban Landscapes, Patterns
    • City of Tigard Urban Corridor Project
    • Eco-Pattern Districts and Neighborhoods
  • Sustainable Downtown Growth
    • The Dalles
    • OT/CT/JT (with CIU)
  • (Re)generative Process and Design
    • Tsunami Evacuation and Wayfinding, Coastal Oregon
    • Workshop in Fukushima, Japan
    • Arthur Hotel Portland
  • Quality of Structure and Process
    • Wellness Project
  • Next Projects
    • Patterns and Sustainability/Streets
    • Creation Production for a Living World (with CES)

[37:49] Generative and Regenerative Urban Architecture and Urban Design

  • Theory, Part 1, Generative Design
  • Design Process at the University of Oregon, Pattern Language

[38:05]Regenerative Design and (Re)Generative Design

  • Regenerative Design
    • Regenerative design is a process oriented systems theory based approach to design. The term “regenerative” describes processes that restore, renew, or revitalize their own sources of energy and materials, creating sustainable systems that integrate the needs of society with the integrity of nature.  The basis is derived from systems ecology.
    • Source:  1. Jon Tilman Lyle: Regenerative Design for Sustainable Development.
  • (Re)Generative Design
    • Generative or (re)generative design is an applied for of generative science that tries to understand and conceptualize the world and its complex structure as a generative or (re)generative process.
    • Generative design attempts to formulate limited parameters, principles, and rules that interact with each other to create richness of life and behavior, and endless variation of form, shape and place.  Here generative and (re)generative design are closely related in terms of rules and principles.
    • Source:  2. Christopher Alexander: The Nature of Order (Wholeness Extending Transformation)
    • Source:  3. William McDonough and Michael Baumgart: From Cradle to Cradle.  Walter R. Stahel (From Cradle to Cradle).  Key words:  Permaculture, Biophilia, Sustainability, Environmentalism, Resilience, Complexity.

[40:54] Re(Generative Process: Generative Architecture and Urban Design

  • 1. Pattern Languages (since ~1970)
  • 2. Generative (Design and Building) Processes and Sequences (since ~1990)
  • 3. Generative Urban Code (since ~2005)
  • Interdisciplinary Process

[41:42] 10 Large Scale Regional/Urban Patterns

  • World
    • 1. Independent Regions
  • Region
    • 2. The Distribution of Towns
    • 3. City Country Fingers
    • 4. Agricultural Valleys
    • 5. Lace of Country Streets
    • 6. Country Towns
    • 7. The Countryside
  • City
    • 8. Mosaic of Subcultures
    • 9. Scattered Work
    • 10. Magic of the City

[45:14] Composition of a Pattern from the Book:  A Pattern Language (Looped Local Roads)

  • Archetypes – Phenotypes
  • **
  • Pattern Title
  • An Illustration
  • Hyperlinks
  • Definition of the Problem
  • Main Text
  • Solution Proposals
  • Solution Sketch
  • Hyperlinks

[47:58]  [network map around 40. Old People Everywhere]

[48:43] Pattern Languages as Generative Systems and Processes

[49:30] Application of Patterns and Pattern Languages

  • Three Examples of University Campi
  • 1. The University of Oregon Eugene Campus Plan 1974-Present
  • 2. The University of Oregon Portland Urban Campus 2008-Present
  • 3. The Eishin Highschool and College Campus in Tokyo – Japan 1984 – Present

[50:58] University of Oregon – Design Procedures

  • Patterns from the book A Pattern Language
  • Patterns specifically developed for the Oregon Campus Plan

[51:57] University of Oregon, Campus Plan, May 31, 2005

[52:24] University Science Complex, Charles Moore

[52:30] Matthew Knight Arena

[52:33] John E Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes

[52:38] Erb Memorial Union, Creating a New Center of Campus

[53:17] Eugene Kiln Shelter – University of Oregon, Stephen Duff

[54:16] Agate Housing Project Eugene – CES + T&E

[56:56] Three apartment Archetypes – twenty Phenotypes

[1:01:20] The Amazon Village – 340 housing units

[1:01:31] White Stag Urban Facilities – University of Oregon, Project 2

[1:02:28] University of Oregon, Portland: Current, New and Considered sites

[1:02:42] University of Oregon – Desing Procedures

  • New Portland Patterns:
  • Abundant Natural Light
  • An Atrium for Architecture and Allied Arts
  • Prominent Main Entry
  • A Street Presence
  • Galleries, Event Rooms, and a Cafe
  • Studios as Social Classrooms
  • Generous Hallways and Lobbies

[1:05:41] WSB – LEED Gold Certified http://design.uoregon.edu/wsb/stories.html

[1:06:16] Revitalizing a historical urban neighborhood with catalyst projects: OCOM Oregon College of Medicine as latest development 2013

[1:07:29[ Mercy Corps, OT CT JT

[1:08:05] Julian Inn Shelter for the Homeless, SF Bay Area, San Jose

  • Project 5:  Generative design and Creative Production
  • The Real Meaning of Construction

[1:08:39] Patterns

  • 1. Entrance Transition
  • 2. Living Courtyard
  • 3. Communal Dining
  • 4. Private Sleeping stall
  • 5. Entrance Fountain
  • 6. Thick walls and benches at bottom of buildings

[1:10:41] CES Builder’s yard, Martinez

[1:16:55] Battle, p. 476  END

Full abstract

A lecture by Hajo Neis, Associate Professor of Architecture, University of Oregon

“The purpose of all architecture, the purpose of its spatial-geometric organization, is to provide opportunities for life-giving situations. The central issue of architecture, and its central purpose, is to create those configurations and social situations, which provide encouragement and support for life-giving comfort and profound satisfaction — sometimes excitement — so that one experiences life as worth living. When this purpose is forgotten or abandoned, then there is indeed no architecture to speak of.” C. Alexander, H. Neis, M. Alexander. Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth. Oxford University Press. N.Y. November 2012, p. 2

Dr. Hajo Neis is an architect and urban designer with more than 35 years of professional experience and projects internationally. From his early days in the Frankfurt School of Philosophy and, at the same time, working in his father’s modernist architecture office, Neis was intrigued by the critical relationship between theory and practice. This focus sharpened considerably in his still ongoing cooperation with Chris Alexander, in theoretical practical projects, and educational work from 1990-2000 at the University of California, the Center for Environmental Structure (CES) in Berkeley, and his own office HNA. In 2006, Neis founded the Portland Architecture Research Laboratory (PUARL), at the UO, where he continues to explore and expand this work though urban research as well as practical and experimental projects.

In this lecture Neis will report about the recently published book ‘Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth’ by Christopher Alexander, Hans Joachim Neis and Maggie Alexander, in which the authors present “a revolutionary vision for the human environment: in coming eras, the environment will be conceived, designed, made, and widely understood as a necessary part of our emotional and social life.” But the book also addresses a major problem in the production of today’s human environment, or the kind of problems you can encounter when you try to implement essential principles for a human and beautiful architecture in large-scale projects. The book can best be understood as an excellent example of the fascinating interplay between theory and practice, between thinking and making, with a deep concern for human life and the environment, and a battle worth fighting. Neis will show several more projects closely related to the book and its main topic and theme and the University of Oregon.

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The Art of the Really Long View (MP3 audio) | Peter Schwartz | Dec. 12, 2003 | Long Now Foundation

Better futures, says Peter Schwartz, means creating and having more options for the future, leaving the future better than we found it.

Peter Schwartz

[06:50] How do you take the really long view? What do have to do if you really want to take the long view seriously? And, so, I set out to try and rethink about the ways that I approach the future, if one takes a much longer time frame seriously. Centuries. Millenia, maybe, rather than than a decade or two or three or four.

[7:20] So, I’m going to try to set out some notions about how one approaches that problem. What do you think about, and why. How do you do it, and what do you do about it, as a result?

[07:30] I take, as a kind of fundamental premise, that the future exists, but it exists in our mind. The future that actually is, is the future that we believe, about the future. What’s going to happen tomorrow? Maybe someday, physics will discover that the future is actually exists out there, and you could travel there in time. It not too hard for me to imagine that the past actually exists. But, in fact, the past is no more substantial than the future. It exists at the moment, only in our mind. It’s irretrievably gone. That moment, a few seconds ago, it’s gone. The future hasn’t happened, yet. So both the past and future are there in our minds, and we act only in the present, based in part on our experiences of that now imaginary past, and that future that has yet to come to be.

[08:20] So all of this is really, in the end, about the present. It’s about what we draw from the past, and what we imagine about the future, and how that influences what we do, right now. That’s what this is really all about.

[08:35] I ask the question then: so, why bother? Why bother thinking about all of this? At the most mundane level, the world can be a better place or a worse place in the future. Put most simply, that’s the bottom line of it. We want to make a better future. But what do we mean by better, first of all?

[08:50] First of all, in the personal sense, the level of the individual, at least in two ways. A better material life, and the usual sorts of things: health, security, comfort, pleasure, the kinds of things that money can buy, to some extent, as it were. And then a better inner life, if you will: purpose, community, sense of belonging, intimacy, all of those things that make a person feel like life is worth living. And so, it is the combination of those things, and a personal sense.

[09:20] But better isn’t enough if it’s just, “life is pretty good for me, but screw the rest”. That’s obviously not what we mean. What we also mean it’s better in social sense, in a much larger sense.

[09:30] Here, I mean one idea above all else, over the long run, as opposed to in the world immediately at hand, and that is, better means having more options for the future, creating more options for the future. Put most simply, it is leaving the future as good or better than we found it. It’s about leaving the future, preferably, better than we found it. And this is where, a lot of what now follows, comes from, because we may actually be failing at this task.

[10:00] Our forefathers … my parents, gave me a great future. In the future that I inherited was really fabulous. And I’m not at all convinced that the future I’m passing on to my son is a great future. And I think that’s what we’re worried about. You know, there have been other generations that have screwed up. The generation that probably created, and then settled World War I, they deserve a lot of blame for what happened over the next several decades, in Weimar, depression, World War II, and fascism and all of that kind of stuff. They blew it. They left a pretty bad future behind them. We’re at risk of doing the same thing, of not leaving a better future for our children.

[10:45] So, then, the next question is: if that’s really what you’re trying to accomplish, can you really do anything about it? Does what we do actually matter? Does human fate actually matter? We had a little seminar last night of some of the sponsors of this series, and some of the Long Now people. Danny Hillis put it very well. He said: “We might as well do something about the future, because it’s the only thing that we can do anything about”. At the most mundane level, that is absolutely true.

[11:15] Now, whether we can do anything about the future really depends upon what our view of history is. How we understand how and why the world happens as it does. And here, in part, it’s how long is your now, and on how big is your here. That’s part of what one wants to take into account. And, as I said earlier, it really is, in my case tonight, centuries, maybe even a few millenia, not decades.

[11:45] How many of you are old Whole Earth geeks? Some of you may remember the name Dick Raymond. Dick was the founder of something called the Portola Institute in the 1960s. It was the first institutional home for the Whole Earth Catalog. And Dick said something very wise. He said, and this was a while ago, he said “If it doesn’t take 50 years, it isn’t worth doing”. And more recently, he’s been saying if it isn’t going to take 200 years, it isn’t worth doing. I think that that’s actually a very important idea, because it takes one’s ego out of it. Somebody just brought me a great idea for changing the world, and they said “We’ve got to do it right now. This has to be done right now. This is the moment it’s got to be done”. There’s only one reason that this is the moment that it’s got to be done. It’s his moment. His now is very short. Very short. The things that really matter take a long time.

[12:40] As far as whether human agency actually makes a difference, one of the kinds of acts of history that I enjoy is virtual history. Ask the question: what if it had been different? There’s a British historian, Niall Ferguson — very conservative … controversial and conservative — [who] wrote the book Empire, arguing why the British Empire was good thing, and why we ought to have an empire but we’re lousy at it. So, you Americans can’t do empires, is his hypothesis. But he wrote an earlier book, called The Pity of War.

[13:10] In The Pity of War, he asks a very interesting question. What would have happened if Britain had not entered World War I? He basically comes the conclusion — interestingly enough, and whether you agree with him or not is another question — but it begins to address the question of human agency. And that is, he says, suppose they hadn’t entered the war? Well, what would have happened? Well, Germany probably would have won and unified Europe, in an EU — maybe a German-speaking EU, but an EU 50 years earlier. The Brits would have kept their empire. Six hundred thousand young British men — creative energies and talents — would have been applied to the further fruits of British society. Britain would not have been empoverished. No Weimar, no depression, no fascists, no holocaust, no Hitler, et cetera, et cetera.

[14:05] Really bad choice to go into World War I, wasn’t it? Well, of course, at that moment, one didn’t see it that way. But it does say something about human choice, and how one frames the problem, how one frames the context, and what it means in the long run. I’m not arguing that he’s right, I am simply arguing that it raises fundamental questions about some of kinds of the long term choices that we make.

[14:25] Now, I would say that the history of the last millennium — and certainly, at least probably the last 10,000 years — suggest that what people do matters. By and large, we’ve made progress. Just think about: would you like to go to a dentist, 100 years ago? You could answer that one pretty quick. On the other hand, think about this: my bet is you’d much prefer to go a dentist 100 years from now, too, than today. Human progress, I think, is very real. It’s very real. It’s been true for the last 10,000 years. It’s been true for the last 1,000 years. It’s probably been true for the last 100 years. Now, we’re beginning to question many elements of that, but, by and large, more people live better today than have ever lived well in human history. Literally, several billion people, despite the fact that several billion people live in desperate poverty, several billion people living reasonable well.

A theory of long term dynamics can come from a theory of history.

[17:45] What we going to do tonight is not scenario planning. But most of the ways of looking at the future have something in common. This is true for the kind of work that I do, as well. Every time you look at the future, you what to figure out, what is the question? What are you trying to answer? A very simple idea. What are the long term forces, and how do they interact? What are the big uncertainties? How do these forces play out, in light of these uncertainties? What might all of that might mean, and what should I do, as a result of that?

[18:10] So, in this particular context, what we need is a theory of long-term dynamics. Why do things happen the way they do? Some way to play those out, and validate those theories. You need some kind of sense of what the consequences of all that are. And then, what should I do, as a result?

[18:30] So, I’m actually going to try to go through that tonight, and try to answer some of those questions. What is the way of thinking about the long term future? How might all that play out, and what should we do?

[18:40] So, first of all, theory of history. I get a lot of my sense of dynamics … I read a lot of history and science. Those are the two things I like to read. I see history as a long run struggle — in which humanity is involved in this constant struggle — to create human systems that help us avoid killing each other too much — sometimes, it’s not a bad idea; exceeding the ecological carrying capacity, we’ve got to avoid doing that; we have to give meaning to life; and enabling us to do great things.

[19:15] Those are the struggle. Don’t kill each other too much. Learn to live within your ecological capacities. Give meaning to human life. And be able to do really cool things: build cathedrals, go to the moon, do great art, et cetera.

[19:30] Now, my hypothesis is not novel. It’s the very obvious one, that over the long run, it is powerful, and sometimes even good, ideas that have been humanity’s most powerful weapon in this never-ending struggle. Now that’s not a new idea. Lots of people have argued that. Hegel, et cetera, in philosophy, and many others, that really human progress is really about the progress of ideas. Ideas about nature, how nature works. Ideas about how societies ought to be organized. And about the nature of human beings, and lots more.

[20:00] So, it’s really about the history of ideas. If you think back, historically, we have lots of examples from history. Imagine the first guys doing cave painting, and mixing pigments. It’s one thing when you take a slab of rough chalk and you spear it on the wall. But there’s someday, one day, said if I take this ochre and this hematite, and this charcoal and some chalk, and I mix it together, I can do cool painting on the cave. [….] Think about the act of sitting there, 14,000-15,000 years ago — we were mining ochre for pigments, 42,000 years ago in Africa — that somebody there was sitting there mixing pigments and putting art on the wall.

[20:50] The first counting device is 37,000 years ago. The first tool is 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. We got stone block buildings 10,000 years ago, in Persia and India. Bow and arrow about the same time. Agriculture in Asia about the same time. The plough is happening about then. Domestic sheep in Iraq, about that time, 8700 B.C.

[21:20] Now all of that, interestingly enough, by the way, is of course triggered by global warming. Global warming is the beginning of civilization, and maybe the end of civilization. It may be the end of civilization, but it’s also the beginning of civilization. It’s coming out of the ice age, being able to settle down, create agriculture, create cities and villages, and so on, for the first time, instead of fleeing the glaciers all of the time. Before that, we were living in a very volatile climate. So, in fact, global warming triggered modern civilization.

[21:45] Around 5,000 B.C. we got our first cities. […] Writing … about 3500 B.C. […]

[21:50] The wheel, 3000, in Mesopotamia. Afterlife in Egypt comes along about the same time. Hammerabi comes up with, basically, the written code of conduct in Babylon in 1790 B.C. Monotheism, one of the interesting inventions. […]

[22:15] Then, of course, there are these great ideas that vanish. The Minoans. [….] You can have great ideas and bad luck, which is what happened to the Minoans.

[22:45] In this sense, as well, some ideas matter a lot, in what we imagine in the history. Cosmology actually matters in the long run. In the geocentric universe, you did one set of things. Suddenly, when the sun is at the center, and you’re going around the sun, you start answering those questions differently. You imagine different possibilities. The future looks very different. [….]

[23:35] Another list of these kinds of ideas, which is suggestive, is in a new book by Charles Murray, Human Accomplishments. I don’t really like the book. It’s basically a statistical defence of dead white European males, why they are the source of most good ideas. Not surprising, coming from Charles Murray. But, his list of interesting ideas is interesting. And this is part of the list. I’ll give you the rest.

[24:00] From the arts: artistic realism, linear perspective, artistic abstraction, polyphony, drama, the novel, meditation, logics, ethics, Arabic numerals, the mathematical proof, the calibration of uncertainty — I really like that one, statistics — the secular observation of nature, and the scientific method. Now, all of these, he called meta-inventions, because they liberate other inventions. They enable people to do more with them. They are not static inventions as such.

[24:30] So, this is part of what we’re talking about when we talk about the evolution of ideas. Now, in the realm of ideas, I want to talk about what we actually think about, not instinctual behaviors. So, the divinely endowed king, versus the top dog in the tribe. The guy who got there because he was bigger and meaner than everybody else, as opposed to the king who inherited his mantle from his father, who inherited from the gods, and there’s a whole story about. So, it’s that kind of difference. Agriculture versus hunting and gathering. So, I plant these seeds, and that thing grows, as opposed to, oh, that red thing on the tree is really cool. It’s a different model. It’s that actual cognitive thought process, self-aware developmental process, which is what I mean by the realm of ideas.

[25:25] We’re interested in two classes of ideas, powerful ideas and good ideas. And they’re not necessarily the same. Powerful ideas persist and spread, over centuries. That’s one of their important characteristics. They take hold. They’re infectious. Sometimes, these powerful ideas cooperate with other ideas, and sometimes they compete, successfully or not, with other ideas. Science and technology mostly cooperate. New scientific principles create new ways of discovering new science. So, you learn about optics, you make telescopes, you discover astronomy, and so on. They feed on each other.

[26:00] In that world, religion is simply the object of cultural anthropology. But science and religion mostly compete. In that world, science lives inside a much bigger box that it cannot explain, called religion. Very different views on the nature of both of these, and their relationship, depending on which way you approach it.

[26:20] Now, in powerful ideas, we’re also interested in evolutionarily powerful ideas. These increase options, and they have to be many and diverse. So, if we really want a lot of powerful ideas, we need lots of them. We want evolution. There’s can’t be just one set of ideas, and they need to be highly competitive. Now, we also need to protect options we already have, as well as to create new ones.

[26:45] But it’s important to realize that powerful ideas are not necessarily good ideas. Indeed, very bad ideas can be very powerful. Consider them a type of collective hallucination, if you will. France and 9/11, just to take bad example, for a lot of French. Many of you will know about a book that is very popular in France that explains 9/11 in very different terms. Kathleen will remember the dinner we had with a very dear friend, a prominent French businessman, well-educated, travels the world, speaks English fluently, written several books, vice-chairman of one of France’s largest companies. A man of enormous sophistication, married to a Korean wife at the time. We were having dinner, and he says, “You don’t really think that a plane flew into the Pentagon, do you?” “What do you mean, Robert?” “Well, of course, it was the CIA. They sent a cruise missile. This was actually an internal war inside the CIA and the Defense Department. That’s what really happened. You Americans are under a profound delusion that this was the Arabs. They couldn’t have done this”. This is a man of profound intelligence. This is a bad idea. A very powerful bad idea.

[27:55] The culture of victimization in the Arab world. The final solution. Maoism during the Cultural Revolution. Colonialism. Bad.

[28:05] Now, colonialism tells you something about some bad ideas change. One could have argued — I wouldn’t, but some would — that colonialism was a good idea for a while, but how did it end? It ended when we delegitimated the idea. We stopped believing in it. Somewhere in the 1930s, colonialism went from being a legitimate institution by which governments could organize the world, to no longer being legitimate. And people stopped defending colonialism. It only became a matter of how quickly and what means you decolonialized. The idea became delegitimated. And that’s what happens to ideas. Powerful ideas become legitimate, “oh, yeah, it was the CIA that attacked the building” in France, or they become delegitimated, as in colonialism, for example.

[28:55] By the way, a good target for delegitimating right now is intelligent design. Put that one on the list. Another bad idea.

[29:05] Good ideas, on the other hand, improve the lot of the human hosts that host these ideas, in terms of better, I mean all of the things I said earlier about better. And what we’re trying to do is increase the good options, and help humans host adapt over the long run. That’s really what it’s about. And good ideas are affirmed over the long time. They reveal reality. They’re not a hallucination. Reality ultimately conforms to the ideas, or vice-versa. But they ain’t the kind of collective hallucination.

[29:30] For a good idea, it also has to be powerful. So you need powerful good ideas. Examples are science, art, law. These are all powerful good ideas.

[29:45] Now, if that’s the case, so, where do good ideas come from? Why and how do good ideas develop? Well, obviously for one thing, they come from the ideas before them. We’re sitting on a big mountain of ideas. We don’t have to worry about where the original idea was. The ur-ideas somewhere x thousands of years ago. In the past, someone had an idea. We’re beyond that point. We don’t have to worry about that. But the path dependency of ideas is important, that is, the sequence of development of ideas. You can’t get to molecular biology, until you’ve had biology and chemistry, as it were. You need both to create molecular biology.

[30:25] So, the history of ideas is a long one. And we’re going to come back to that to what we think we should be doing.

[30:30] Now, another source of big ideas is the problems to be solved. So, where did the moon go, when it disappeared? Why did that tree grow? How are babies made? Why should I protect those other people? We ask ourselves lots of questions over human history. And that’s where a lot of ideas come from. [….]

[30:10] Another important source of big ideas is new tools. You couldn’t do astronomy until you had a telescope. Or microbiology, until you had a microscope. But tools can be conceptual. Einstein needed modern mathematics to do general relativity. [….] So, the new instruments, conceptual and physical, give us new ways of developing ideas.

[32:00] And, here, I’m not going to say too much more about this going into the future. We’re going to be pretty confident about going into the future. On, well into the future, our conceptual tools will become ever so more sophisticated, mathematics more complex, more subtle, higher dimensionality, and so on. And our instruments, things like microscopes and telescopes, and so on, cameras, will enable us to see much further. [….]

[33:00] And then, of course, the final source of great ideas is the eureka moment of an individual. Whoa, what a big idea. And a wonderful book, if you haven’t read it, is Einstein’s Clocks and Poincare’s Maps by Peter Gallison ….

Can we deal with some of the big issues?

[43:45] Another big issue that we have to solve is citizenship and governance in mega-society. I really enjoyed the San Francisco mayoral election. [….] It was democracy at a scale that people could really relate, to their communities, to their choices. There was a meaningful sense of democratic participation. Gosh, it’s really hard in America, to feel that at a national scale. And essentially impossible, so far, to feel that at a global scale. How do you create real global citizens? How do you create institutions at a global scale? When we created the constitution, it was 3 million people, 13 colonies. Europe might be a more interesting example. Here, they’re creating a new system of governance with 500 million people, very highly developed, and on a continent where they’re used to killing each other in very large numbers, for most of the last couple of centuries. And really, the European Union is about peace and war, not about economics. That’s what most Americans don’t realize. It’s about the French not killing the Germans, and vice versa. [….] But we haven’t developed those type of mechanisms at a global level, and that’s one of the really big problems. How do you develop that? How do you build countries? And how to you fix broken ones? [….] We don’t know how to do that. Another big problem.

[45:55] I think that one of the really big ones, for the long run, is that we need an equivalent of the rule of law for human relationships to ecosystems. We developed the rule of law to organize and constrain relations amongst people. Law defines and ensures our basic rights, tells us what are human rights are, it prevents the strong from dominating the weak, it embodies a sense of fairness. It embodies a view of the human condition, divinely endowed rights, for example. [….] Law is about breaking the tyranny of arbitrary power. And right now, our relationship to ecosystems is arbitrary. In that sense, we don’t have a theory of law, an underpinning of relationship to those ecosystems. Sustainability may be the objective, but we don’t know what that really means, except for increasing options. Maybe the evangelicals for the environment have the right answer, it’s thou shalt not destroy God’s creation. That’s a kind of statement of law, if you believe in God. And if you believe in that, that could be a kind of relationship. Maybe they’ve got the right answer.

[47:45] But history tells us that conflicts arise among people for three reasons, fundamentally: honor, fear and interest. It’s about honor, it’s about fear, it’s about interest. You want to read about it? Donald Kagen’s book On the Origins of War gets into this plight. The rules of law in a conventional deal, sets deals with the first and third. We can deal with honor, we can deal with interests. We respect the law. But fear, fear is really about exceeding our carrying capacity, not having enough. Not having enough. And a wonderful book that Stewart Brand just turned me onto, and everybody at GBN, is called Constant Battles, by Stephen Leblanc. And it’s about the history of exceeding our carrying capacity and going to war, as a result. And that has been the normal human condition.

[48:30] So, I’m not worried about the near term. I think that we can deal with a lot of our short term problems with technology. But it’s the really long run, where we need a fundamental new sense of an equivalent of the set of law, the rule of law. And this, I consider one of the great intellectual problems that we need to address. That the idea, the really big idea, that we need, that we don’t have.

[49:50] I think another interesting one, is knowledge organization and access. We’re just learning so much. [….]

[On Soundcloud, downloadable MP3 audio]

[Intro at Seminars on Long Term Thinking]

Peter Schwartz, considered by many to be the world’s leading futurist, will be trying out new ideas in public in a talk titled, “The Art of the Really Long View.” He’ll be talking about ways to engage the next several hundred years.

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