Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Lesson in Entropy

The biggest news in Dallas today/yesterday be (oops) IS the opening of an In-n-out Burger. That is all.


Christopher Alexander, author of urban planning/architectural classic A Pattern Language wrote that all human-constructed places evoke either feelings of aliveness or feelings of death (that apparently either nobody understands or we all get at some deep visceral level and the various systemic machinations of the financial and political mechanisms for delivering cities, aka real estate, have us so beaten down into an overall and unending malaise that it is just easier to go along with it than fight. The longer we last until we fight, the more catastrophic will be the cataclysm).


en·tro·py (ntr-p)
n. pl. en·tro·pies
1. Symbol S For a closed thermodynamic system, a quantitative measure of the amount of thermal energy not available to do work.
2. A measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system.
3. A measure of the loss of information in a transmitted message.
4. The tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.
5. Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.

OK. Ignore 1. But OMG, read those last four and tell me how much they don't apply to the disorder and uniformity we've constructed. Unlovable, relentless sameness is doomed to devalue, devolve, and self-destruct. Slowly, surely, inevitably.


As I have stated on numerous occasions, most often to interns asking for design advice and nowhere near this level of theory, design (like all things) evolves in one of two ways: 1) either slowly, incrementally, and always built on a foundation of every other competitive step forward, or 2) the old way is completely cast aside by hook, crook, or accident and the transformation is massive and painful. That painful period of transition has been the post-industrial period...for all things economic and/or design. It's time to have purpose and order again.


Imagine what happens when the disorder spreads from the system, the form of cities, to society further fragmenting civilization into complete disentegration. Do you think it's an accident that Zombie movies and post-apocalyptic novels are so prevalent? What's dead? What's dying? Where is meaning? What is meaning-ful/-less?

On a long enough time line, survival rate of everything drops to zero.