Design is, by definition, inhuman. We humans design, yet we do not, cannot really, at least not yet, design humans. Yet the boundaries of contemporary design increasingly encroach upon the real. The design of fleshy bodies, genetics, entire species, landscapes, territories, and even planets are becoming no longer mere fantasies. But do we really know how to design, to think, to be creative, to be careful, to be responsible, to be innovative, to be progressive both at and between such scales?
While the Istanbul Biennial questions ‘Are We Human?’, Volume explores the post-human world of Artficial Intelligence and Machine Learning. It’s not about the future, not about promise, it’s very much about the here and now. Please join us coming Friday (October 28) for an informal gathering at Post Office, Rotterdam to exchange on this life changing topic.
The data-saturated environment we live in today was already there almost half a century ago; it’s just that the nature of data has changed. Data used to be much more spatial, more architectonic, and the means of locating oneself in, and navigating through, such a space could be revealed by architectural theory and critique. With data only penetrating deeper into our cognitive realm by the day, what is there for architecture to say?
To see housing as a fundamental human right is a relatively new concept with consequences for law, justice and politics. In issue 46: Shelter, Volume published Abla el Bahrawy’s quick scan of the first formulation of this universal right and its further development into an action agenda in consecutive UN-Habitat conferences to promote and secure this right globally.
Machines need to learn to be able to act on their own. It’s a debatable question whether we want, or need, machines to do so, but the trend toward automation, is undeniable. Autonomous machines are being trusted with increasing responsibility in maintaining and providing for contemporary society, and we are finally finding out what happens to the human after the machines take over.
The concept of the ‘tipping point’ is a properly Cartesian understanding of history. It not only presumes that there is such a thing as ‘before’ and ‘after’, but also that we will be able to recognize and identify its difference to a single moment in time. This used to work, when historical events were things like wars, and we could organize our collective energies to effect the course of history. But now that events take place at the speed of light and even at a quantum level, how can we know when we’re already past where?
With the rise of computational networks and power, cognitive models developed and debated over in the postwar decades have finally been able to be put to work. Back then, there was a philosophical debate raging alongside the burgeoning field of computer science theory on the nature of consciousness. Yet with the proliferation of data and the centralization of its archives, theoretical practice moved from conceptual experiments to empirical tests.
Volume #49: Hello World!, the third in our Learning series, seeks to take one small step in the direction towards understanding the contemporary relevance of machines for architecture, and one giant leap for mankind. It includes ‘In Loving Support’, a 32-page insert produced with Het Nieuwe Instituut on living and working with algorithms.
“Can contemporary architectural research learn anything from the military principle of incitatory operations?” asked Eyal Weizman in Volume #16: Engineering Society. Today, almost a decade later, with military operations taking place in the five continents and radical groups increasingly gaining power, Weizman’s inquiry still feels relevant.
Eight years ago, Volume dedicated issue 16 to Social Engineering. It was like swearing in the church, a no go zone, radioactive stuff. Would the mild form of social engineering advocated by Ernsten and Janmaat in V16 be a way to go? To mediate between global and local, between neighborhood and country, between the self and the collective?