Complexity and Infrastructure

Yesterday's New York Times has a piece by David Segal entitled "It's Complicated: Making Sense of Complexity." It's nice to see the New York Times reading my blog—and even using the same Thomas Cole image (The Course of Empire) that I've used before in discussing the topic to lead off the piece.

But it's no surprise: the topic's very much in the air now and I predict that by the end of this decade it'll be commonly understood to be as big an issue for network culture as rigidity was for Fordism. 

If you're interested in complexity as a problem—particularly with regard to infrastructure—please come to the next Netlab event, which takes place tomorrow, May 4 at 6.30pm EST at Columbia's Studio-X Soho. For those of you outside of the city, no worries, there'll be a ustream feed. Please find more here.   



Complexity is, correspondingly, the big aesthetic driving force in architecture schools. This is especially apparent because one could argue that complexity is the substance of architecture - that architects' primary skill is the control of complexity in the service of the human body. Yet, architects' contemporary response to the complexity of their tools is primarily aesthetic. 5 minutes - or less - in Processing will give you a drawing complex enough to be displayed on the walls of any pretty much any contemporary art gallery. From pure noise to the complexity of curvilinear geometry to the production of meaningless info-graphics, visual complexity is a contemporary aesthetic affliction, though I'm sure it's a temporary affliction.

The information professions is where the juicy stuff is really happening, of course. Here, there are two poles to combating information complexity: the first is human curation, the second is to achieve the critical mass of data complexity required to allow your algorithms to curate themselves. The vastly different approach to these two approaches is one of the things that makes the internet so dynamic: there is a place for both the human and the machine, and products that can harness both are destined to be the most powerful and influential.

Just riffing.


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