This week → The form and function of science-fiction ⊗ Working with Brian Eno on design principles for streets ⊗ Machine learning’s crumbling foundations ⊗ Warning: Your reality is out of date ⊗ Agriculture in the here and now ⊗ Intelligences
From Fred Scharmen a couple of years ago, a consideration of Frank Lloyd Wright and architecture more broadly, as a form of science-fiction. “If architecture is always Utopian, and Utopianism is always science fictional, then architecture is science fiction.” Scharmen presents some references of why he proposes this connection and then how it applies to the use of some of Wright’s designs in sci-fi.
The blurry overlap of design, architecture, fiction, science-fiction, and design fiction is always one I find interesting and this piece is a good addition to the definition of that space. (I’ll also encourage you to have a look at Alex’s comments on FLW here and the book she mentions.)
If worlds are disrupted by technology or social change, architecture, and science fiction both try to make sense of that disruption and mediate its impact by getting out ahead of it, anticipating and telling stories about how life might, at best, benefit from change, or, at worst, go on in spite of it. […]
In contrast to the way that Wright uses his own individual works to compose a coherent whole world in Broadacre, these films place Wright’s pieces as fragments beside still other fragments. These are worlds that lack the totalizing integrated singular design ambitions that define Wright’s Utopia. […]
Effective architecture acts in at least two registers: spatially and culturally. Attending to the way in which cultural regimes like science fiction repurpose architecture shows us that if architectural Utopianism is a kind of social critique, then there is still the possibility for further criticism of the way in which that critique proceeds.
Dan Hill with one of those multifaceted 30+ minute reads he has the secret of, this time time expanding on each of Eno’s principles which the artist and musician contributed to Vinnova’s One-Minute City projects in Sweden.
They’re all good and the piece is worth a read for Hill’s thinking on each (and lots of links) but I found the first three, related to gardening, soil, and art especially generative. One can also read it from the perspective I mentioned concerning the article above, where architecture, design, and inventing futures connect. Eno’s principles see the city as a living and evolving thing, while Hill’s projects project a certain vision (co-designed with kids and various citizens) into the near future with the intent to affect how the city changes.
[T]he practices of gardening provide our most fruitful metaphorical terrain: the slower dynamic of organic growth; the sensibility of care, attention and cultivation; its regenerative potential; embodying systems and ecosystems, as well as cultural expression and social justice; the understanding that a garden can be planned, yet not controlled, and a thousand other things […]
[C]ore to the One-Minute City idea: that the space outside your front door is yours, as a citizen—even if it is not exclusively yours. It is the space you and your neighbours have an intimate relationship with, and can reasonably take ownership of, as long as this is not the exclusion of other uses, and ideally supports a diversity of other uses in the street. […]
[M]aking art can be more usefully thought of as being like gardening: you plant a few seeds and then start watching what happens between them, how they come to life and how they interact. It doesn’t mean there’s no plan at all, but that the process of making is a process of you interacting with the object, and letting it set the pace. This approach is sometimes called ‘procedural’. I call it ‘generative’. […]
What might come out of that discussion? What would be a new form of community, based on collaborative, regenerative relationships between human and non-human nature?
Another Sentiers mainstay, Cory Doctorow, with a good piece on machine learning and how so many AI projects are flawed from the beginning, resorting to bad data and following that up with a bad process. It’s not the first time I include pieces threading similar ground, I’m including this one because of the mention of “thick descriptions,” a “thick understanding of context,” and “thick analysis.” A thick description is “a description of human social action that describes not just physical behaviours, but their context as interpreted by the actors as well, so that it can be better understood by an outsider.” (Wikipedia)
In much of ML, most data is very thin, as its collection is often just a piled-on task for over-worked and under-paid people, while the model is then created from it without any of the vital context.
ML practitioners don’t merely use poor quality data when good quality data isn’t available — they also use the poor quality data to assess the resulting models. When you train an ML model, you hold back some of the training data for assessment purposes. […]
Bad data makes bad models. Bad models instruct people to make ineffective or harmful interventions. Those bad interventions produce more bad data, which is fed into more bad models — it’s a “data-cascade.”
I’ve often cited Samuel Arbesman’s concept of the half-life of knowledge. Here in this 2010 piece (via Matt Webb) he explains what he calls “mesofacts,” those that change at medium speed and often go unnoticed.
What’s fantastic (and kind of funny) about it, is that since the piece is eleven years old, some of his examples of mesofacts have themselves changed again, proving his point.
We recognize rapid change, whether it’s as simple as a fast-moving object or living with the knowledge that humans have walked on the moon. But anything short of large-scale rapid change is often ignored. […]
[I]n our increasingly fast-paced and interdisciplinary world, lacking an even approximate knowledge of our surroundings is unwise. […]
The fact that the world changes rapidly is exciting, but everyone knows about that. There is much change that is neither fast nor momentous, but no less breathtaking.
Short piece on the use of drone photography, artificial intelligence, and robots to target specific weeds for herbicide and specific areas of wheat for fertiliser. Also worth noting because the researchers are using Facebook’s facial-recognition software and plan to use Boston Dynamic’s SPOT dog-shaped bots which is… weird?
Using this composite photo, artificial intelligence is employed to recognise the sites of every broad-leaved dock plant and calculate their coordinates down to the last centimetre. In theory, it could then send this data to a robot that would go out and kill off every individual plant with a targeted dose of herbicide. […]
The human eye can’t really tell just how well plants have already been fertilised. But robotic eyes – in other words, multispectral cameras combined with the right software – can assess the nutritional status of the wheat at a glance.
No.188 Asides ⊕ See Note
My own piece sent to members a few days ago, where I argue that the term Artificial Intelligence needs to be reframed, Augmented Intelligence needs to be explored more deeply, as do the more varied perspectives and other forms of intelligence in nature.
- 🇸🇬 🧑🌾 🍅 3 ways Singapore is creating food security with urban farms. “The need to secure food during a crisis and preserve land for a livable climate is changing the focus of farming from rural areas to cities. At the forefront of this shift is Singapore, a city-sized country that aims to produce 30% of its own food by 2030. But with 90% of Singapore’s food coming from abroad, the challenge is a tall order. The plan calls for everyone in the city to grow what they can, with government grants going to those who can use technology to yield greater amounts.”
- 😱 🌋 🇫🇷 Really beautiful 3D model you can spin around. A Massive Subterranean ‘Tree’ Is Moving Magma to Earth’s Surface. “Réunion, a French island in the western Indian Ocean, is like a marshmallow hovering above the business end of a blowtorch. It sits above one of Earth’s mantle plumes — a tower of superheated rock that ascends from the deep mantle and flambés the bases of tectonic plates, the jigsaw pieces that make up the ever-changing face of the world.”
- 🇦🇺 ☀️ 🥇 SunDrive Solar Startup Beats China's Giant Manufacturers in Efficiency Test. “…the company he co-founded in 2015 based on this research, proved this week that it has produced one of the most efficient solar cells of all time, according to a leading independent testing laboratory. And SunDrive did so with copper as the metal at the core.”
- 😍 😍 📸 The Winners of the 2021 Small World Photomicrography Competition.
- 🇩🇪 🚄 🌃 Yes! German Green politicians present plans for Europe-wide night train services. “…an expansion of train services, in particular night trains, in Europe. The new night train network would connect major European cities and holiday regions that currently are popular destinations for inner-European flights.”
- 🇦🇺 🌊 Can 3D Printing Save Our Coastlines? No, but nonetheless interesting. “These 3D printed sculptures – designed and fabricated in the Lab’s studio in Mentone – will provide new habitats for Geelong’s native marine life, as well as being an eye-catching piece of public art.”
- 🤔 Meet the avatars of Alter Ego, Fox’s new singing competition. “20 aspiring singers from all walks of life will compete, but not as themselves. Instead, they get to create their dream avatar, or alter ego, to reinvent themselves.”
- 🇺🇸 🌼The Last Glimpses of California’s Vanishing Hippie Utopias. “Half a century ago, a legion of idealists dropped out of society and went back to the land, creating a patchwork of utopian communes across Northern California. Here, the last of those rogue souls offer a glimpse of their otherworldly residences—and the tail end of a grand social experiment.”
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