De Novo Nature, Life as a ‘Good Simulation’

Everything outside computer memories is not historical facts but literature and dreams. First, by the expression of an impossibility to finally reach a rationalism which would connect the state of our knowledge and its application in the real, an impossibility translated by a language which appears to be ‘inarticulate, arbitrary and non-dialectic’. 1
Openmirrors. It is thus not a question of rebuilding either history or theories, but of recording or producing a new digital reality by simulation. In this framework, the mathematics of sensible things, which have neither the elegance of minimal mathematical equations – the Modernist ideal – nor the status of language specific to a pure syntax, become, as stated by Peter Macapia, ‘dirty’.26 They are beta-mathematics, the result of perpetually experimental information technologies. This paradox was already present in the 19th century in the very term ‘manufacture’ to design that which is more than mechanical, a paradox that was regularly brought to light by Norbert Wiener25 and many others without ever finding a satisfactory political response. Figure 8. Here, logical positivism is accepted, as are the resulting technologies that are solving life problems in a way ‘theorised’ by Andy Warhol:
The acquisition of my tape recorder really finished whatever emotional life I might have had, but I was glad to see it go. Furthermore, to say that no response is satisfactory, given the rise in importance of today’s global, abstract and computational ambient factory which is the deep cause of the actual crisis, is of course a euphemism. Nothing ever caused me any problems again, because a problem signified a good recording and when a problem turns into a good recording it’s no longer a problem.28
At this very moment in our computation-based civilisation, the situation is slightly different. Insofar as it is not a language and therefore it ‘does not give a representation that can be mobilised by a human spirit (a concept)’,24 computer simulation does not lay itself open for the linguistic research typical of the Postmodernism of the 1980s any more than a ‘re-examination of the formal’ in the manner of the young Eisenman, irrespective of the quality of their transposition into a computational environment. This is the language of the most recent Californian architecture which seems to ‘produce repetitions not developments’ and of which ‘consequently the resulting concentric scribble is (specifically through its frustrated ambiguity) the sign of an absolute protest, which “globally” defeats the logic of the real, by refusing to admit the possibility of whatever logic?’27 Second, by accepting a pop and deeply experimental computationalism in which all historical discourses have been replaced by the gross storage capacities of the now more than one million servers and three million computers of the Google Grid. Furthermore, as it is itself experimental proof that nature need not search behind the latest copies, but that it is produced afresh by our computers, Postmodernism appears as a mirror which, to a civilisation whose ‘only purpose is to “know”’, reflects the image of its own knowledge. Such a thought means it would no longer be necessary to look at nature with the same eyes through which Le Corbusier observed the natural shapes of D’Arcy Thompson. Mathematics and logics exist now as a pervasive physical and immaterial environment, as ‘a new domestic landscape’, which is perfectly exemplified by the annual production of theorems estimated in 1976 by Stanislaw Ulam as 200,000.22 Such a landscape, or ecosystem, which is inseparable from information technology is proof of the omnipresence of information technology mentioned above on the subject of a digital nature which itself is a better model than the original. With Modernist designers who embodied mathematics in physical objects, the problem of the sensible remained ‘easy’, but we have to admit that it is very different today. From this mirror state comes the fact that each reproach addressed to this civilisation is invariably referred to us as an interrogation of our own choices, at best identical, at worst increased, a sensation felt by everyone when, for example, we wonder how contemporary technology was able to produce such or such a social construction, including architecture. And this is what Eisenman had summarised perfectly in the title of his essay ‘A Matrix in the Jungle’ (2003), on this occasion returning to Jameson:
Several years ago, Fredric Jameson said that the computer would be capable of giving us a new nature; not an unnatural nature but a nature derived directly from computerised algorithm and processes. In this regard we cannot but recall the paradox of the contemporary factory where the staff, workmen or engineers work to increase the performance of the robots that make them obsolete. On one side life is no more than a good recording, but on the other side it is nothing more than a good computer simulation; a simulation that effectively and physically produces a (synthetic) life.29 We still have a choice.

Updated: 31.10.2014 — 16:44