Mark Hurrell.


Baby steps

01 June 2013

Around 1929 (Salvador) Dali develops a pathological hatred for Le Corbusier. In a well-known photograph from this time we can see Dali sitting in a chair designed by Le Corbusier… a whole panoply of tubular frame modern furniture surrounds Dali - all the things he was trying to pretend that he never liked.

But around this time Dali turned his attention to the internal mechanisms of paranoid phenomena, envisaging the possibility of an experimental method based on the systematic associations peculiar to paranoia.

Dali only once offered an explicit statement about what his paranoid critical method is, in a text titled 'The Conquest of the Irrational'. This shows a quality that is a branch of innocent realism, but rather than a harvesting of the irrational, is a kind of conquering of it. It's really announcing a conscious phase of surrealism and the imposition of critical and intellectual control on the flow of the unconscious.

Dali really hated Le Corbusier and spent a considerable part of his life denigrating him. Whereas Dali is in fact rational with his method for paranoia, Le Corbusier is really a clinically paranoid person who tries to pretend he is rational. There are many quotes that point to a diagnosis of this clinical disease. 'I live like a monk and hate to show myself, but I carry the idea of combat in my person' he says in one, 'the chief must be where others aren't; he must always find the whole, as if in traffic where there are no red or green lights' - quotes that offer a definition par excellence of paranoia; someone for whom even red lights look green.

Rem Koolhaas explaining Dali’s Paranoid Critical Method (which anchors Koolhaas’ own practice) at Art Net, London 1976 - as transcribed in Super-Critical, Architecture Words 1 by AA London

Right now, today, we can't see the thing, at all, that's going to be the most important 100 years from now.

It certainly won't be software. Today, software is the dominant field of systems engineering. But before that, there were integrated circuits, and before that, discrete transistor circuits, and before that, vacuum tubes, and relays, and mechanical gears of all sorts, and on and on, back to the hand-axes. Vannevar Bush's differential analyzer was a mechanical masterpiece which no longer matters.

I will not fix your vacuum tubes. I will not invent your Darlington pair. Any concept, technique, or tool that is specific to software engineering is guaranteed to have a short shelf life, at least on any time scale that I personally care about. So what lives on?

Right now, today, we can't see the thing, at all, that's going to be the most important 100 years from now.

We cannot see the thing. At all. But whatever that thing is -- people will have to think it. And we can, right now, today, prepare powerful ways of thinking for these people. We can build the tools that make it possible to think that thing.

We cannot see the thing. At all. My job is to make sure our children can.

Bret Victor in An Ill-Advised Personal Note about “Media for Thinking the Unthinkable”

Baby steps:

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