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Patrick Tierney (M, 32)
Princeton, US
Immortal since Oct 7, 2007
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    Let's take a definition of architecture as any constructed environment designed for beings to live, work, or exist. While this would include some odd environments such as cattle pens (constructed from little more than wooden posts and barbed wire), I think as a whole it encompasses most of architecture. It leaves out forests and other natural habitats where beings exist and live, and includes virtually every structure traditionally defined as architecture. It also leaves out sewers, trenches, and other pieces of construction which one shouldn't call architecture (unless you adopt a rat's point of view). Thus, architecture is a build or constructed space that beings inhabit.

    Using this definition, I have chosen for my space digital space, or cyberspace, to use a term coined by William Gibson over two decades ago. His descriptions of cyberspace described shafts of light, large spaces, and a psychedelic environment you could touch, manipulate, and become engulfed in.

    While I have included this three dimensional, tectonic space in my collage, I have also shown a space which beings of a much lower order than us inhabit. This space is unlike the three dimension worlds such as Second Life or video games. This space is a space made of bandwidth and computing power, operated by machines for machines, which allow some programs to duplicate themselves, modify themselves, move from machine to machine, gain power and loose it. All of these programs live in an environment based on algorithms and, ultimately, how well a particular performs its given task. Google for instance has machines to roam the Internet searching for information. Cryptography companies use programs to sift through and interpret data[1]. Each program is given access to some data and freedom to move from computer to computer, gathering data. Some make sense of the data and are allowed to reproduce. Those that output gibberish are deleted.

    The environment these programs inhabit is not like the three dimensional space we live in, in fact, it is unclear as to how many dimensions these programs live in. For instance, while we define ourselves by three spatial coordinates, these machines might define their location by a data bandwidth dimension, charting how much data it can receive, or by the number of times it can replicate itself, or to what extent it can communicate with other programs occupying the same state. A programmer determined all the qualities of each location in this environment. Since physical location matters little to these programs, they might describe each location by a thousand different dimensional qualities, and base how they move by factors we cannot imagine, as entities in our space do not have limitations on reproduction or viewing bandwidth. So, is this environment space, and if so, is it architecture?

    It seems to satisfy half of our initial condition. It has been constructed. As much planning and design goes into designing the computing environment for these autonomous machines as would go into a constructed building. The environment has constraints and boundaries, and therefore walls and enclosements. Enclosement defines interior space. It also seems to satisfy the second half of our definition, that beings live, work, and exist in this environment, provided that these digital machines are in fact beings. Thus the problem with labeling this digital space as architecture lies not in measuring breaths, widths, spans, or volumes; the problem lies in defining life.

    I would argue that these machines would constitute some kind of rudimentary life, and therefore can be categorized as beings. The book Vehicles, Experiments in Synthetic Psychology by Valentino Braitenberg maps out a way to construct simple machines with incredibly lifelike characteristics. His book is backed up by neurological research showing how simple the brains of many insects and lower order animals are, and how easy parts of these brains can be replicated in the computer. Thus, we can construct an insect like program and place it in our virtual space, design the parameters that limit where it can move, where it can eat, what it can see and where it can meet other insects. If an insect is a being, and if this software is much like an insect, this software is a being. Therefore, it would seem that this environment satisfies the conditions of being architecture.
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