The good thing about being sick in bed is having some time to contemplate and write.
A) Inscribed in any space are the societal mechanisms of its inhabitants. This starts with a city layout that resulted, even if in a faint ancient distance, out of some sort of socio-economical reasoning. At some point a group of people decided that a certain setup might fit their needs best, and layer after layer, cycling through centuries, generations added on top of it. In that respect, a current state of a city is the build history of its inhabitants. It is the stone engraved record of human decisions we navigate through every day. But with digitalization on the horizont, things will change. In respect to algorithms this will result into distinct forms of space, alliances and disparities, one will be able to recognice in the future, which are not the direct result of human conflict solving, but the mere result of a technoid process, where human decision only shines through a layer of rational mathematical operations. Is it possible to forsee them? To what extend is it possible to describe what impact algorithms on the spatial quality of a city might have? I think for a valuable thesis, these are some of the linchpins to answer first. Also what kind of methodology am I going to apply?
B) What happens when we shift societal memory from physical space to digital? What if we encode more an more information about us not in analogue, haptical and physical entities but digital? Some months ago I read Alec Ross´s book “The Industries of the future”, a extensive look into future technologies that might shape future societies around the globe. In his fourth chapter ” The weaponization of code” he writes;
“On Wednesday, August 15, 2012, a shadowy group linked to the Iranian government attacked Saudi Aramco, the world´s largest energy company. Their weapon of choice, a computer virus. … Like an outbreak of influenca the virus rapidly spread from computer to computer, moving from patient zero to a wide swath of Saudi Aramco´s huge corporate network. … Shamoon [the name of the virus] was designedd to wipe out the memory of Saudi Aramco´s computer system.”
I think what a lot of people don´t realize is, that digitalization may erase a huge portion of our collective memory. Digital media is inherently instable, prone do decay and contrary to our perception very temporary. Fileformats, storage media and what I would call the treshhold of perception limits the timespawn a certain set of information is actually accessible. Disregarding what you migh think now, it´s not analogue versus digital, I argue for the synthesis, it´s about how we cultivate, transmigrate, organize and include the digital into our reality and our respective cultural techniques.
And we are not even talking viruses at this point in my argument!
Now you could go ahead and just plainly ignore the whole issue. You could say,”well humans will sort it out for the better”, and from a fatalistic point of view, that´s absolutly legit. Then again, what makes us human and the only reason why humans reached the level we are right now, is because we didn´t just lean back and surf on the waves of faith. We have to develope strategies to solve problems, and it´s due to a certain western lazyness that many people do not.
Hannah Arendt in “Vita Activa” mentioned, that by action we distinguish ourselfs from the others. Our action goes beyond what we anticipate in acting out. But what if those actions are not human any more? Or say, only a human decision of second degree? Shall we still try to incorporate them into our interpersonal relationships? If so, does that extend humanity?
C) Further more I did some online research about NY and its linkage to algorithms.
.) A humorous article about “the algorithm” in the NEW YORKER.
.) The Manhattan adress algorithm <here>. It actually describes in a reverse engineered manner the city layout of this part of New York.
.) An algorithm to calculate the optimal size and ratio for a taxi fleet in a given city, with New York as an example. <here>
.) A shocking article about a poorly coded algorithm in the health care domain <here>
.) Insight into new York´s predictive policing algorithms <here>