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Experimental Architecture: Natural Computing & Restructuring our Approaches to Challenges.

The first talk this morning was of a different nature.  Rachel Armstrong is a researcher in experimental architecture (meaning buildings, not computers) and artificial life.  She gave examples of where she and others have worked across different research disciplines to model life-like behaviour from chemicals and to look at new models for computation. She has also contributed to art installations using these unconventional assemblies.

Natural computing, a.k.a. unconventional computing, includes morphological computing, biological computing, and other approaches which are based on life-like behaviour rather than binary logic.  The approach uses agents, parallel agents, non-hierarchical communication, and soft control.  Machines are replaced with an assemblage of agents.  The process combines variable states rather than binary states and the processes may behave unpredictably or collapse or transform at tipping points.

It was a fascinating talk, full of ideas of how both computing and buildings might look many years from now if we explore these different approaches.

Her main take-home point is that the way we count, sort and order the world does not have to be fixed.  Modern digital computing is only one such approach – it does not even include the concept of infinity.  Perhaps some of the complex issues we face would be better solved by more organic-influenced ways of thinking.

The specifics of Rachel’s research isn’t going to affect our jobs right now but we do sometimes need to step back and reflect on how we are approaching the problems and challenges that we face. 

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