Computers have a definite place in architecture. They help carry out some of the work, which lets creative thinkers focus more on what they do best, which is solve problems and design. Digital technology makes things easier. But that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes, it’s the struggle that gives birth to creativity.
They are here to stay, that much is fairly undeniable. It’s when and where to draw a line between a computer’s job and a human’s that continues.
Can Computers Design Intelligently?
Given enough data, a computer can certainly produce what you’ve programmed it to do. The problem is that computers lack one important feature, which is the unique human mind. This isn’t a new debate. The argument over whether artificial intelligence could ever really equal, much less surpass, human thought has raged since early science fiction movies.
Certainly, a computer can produce without error, at least as long as it’s programmed without error. But where is the inspiration? Computers are useful tools in architecture, asserts Michael Kilkelly for Arch Daily. And he agrees with Nicholas Carr, author of “The Glass Cage,” in that the precision and speed with which a computer works eradicates the meaningful brainstorming – the trial, error, and problem solving that sparks human inspiration.
Google Flux Wants to Push Humans Out
Google Flux is a name to watch. The idea behind Flux, which is a platform for building eco-friendly homes using big data, is to streamline construction by adapting automatically to local conditions and regulations. In theory, it will produce any given design for any spot on the planet in less time and with less effort than a human could.
Streamlining is great. It’s which part of the human equation it removes that causes a bit of concern. Mass-produced anything often falls flat in the way that humans react to it. And buildings are created for humans. The originality of design loses its shine when the same thing is available on every corner around the globe. There’s a reason why tract housing rarely makes anyone stand in awe of its beauty.
There’s No Single Measure of Intelligence
Proponents of computers in architecture argue that with enough data, designs will be no less inspirational and much more efficient. But that suggests the human mind is distillable to a single, ideal measure of intelligence. Dr. Temple Grandin is a perfect example of how brilliance can come in different forms.
Dr. Grandin’s TED Talk, “The World Needs All Kinds of Minds,” stresses that with the autistic mind, you get a higher level of attention to detail than with a “normal” mind. But her autistic mind thinks in pictures. How would you program a computer to do that? And why would anyone want to risk the loss of any inspiration just for the sake of working faster?
Instead of working toward a future where humans have less and less to do, a better approach might be to embrace computers for the grunt work that they’re ideally suited for. That way, humans can continue to brainstorm, scribble on paper, get frustrated, get inspired, and design the next awe-inspiring home.
Can computers edge into the domain of humans until they ultimately push out their creators? Maybe a better question is, “Why would we want them to?”
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