Man and Technology: A Marriage of Necessity
Updated: Oct 21
Prometheus steals fire from the Olympian gods and gives it to humanity. (Painted by Heinrich Friedrich Füger)
As per the Greek epic poet, Hesiod, the "Trick at Mecone" tells the story of how Prometheus tricked Zeus and restored fire to humanity. In this version of the fire myth, it is suggested that humanity already possessed fire, but Zeus withdrew it. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus Further reading of the fire myth expands on Zeus' attitude towards humanity as he withholds fire due to their growing numbers and prosperity. According to these sources, Zeus did not approve of Prometheus' compassion towards humanity. Another version of the myth claims Prometheus stole fire from the hearth (fireplace) of the gods in Mt. Olympus. See https://bit.ly/Prometheusstealsfire
Humans are the most complex organisms on Earth. Our species has proved time and again that adaptation is its most valuable trait. Over time, adaptation has given birth to civilization: communities flourished with tools like the bow and arrow before more sophisticated tools like computer arrived. Our ancestors used technology to fight off invaders, cultivate lands, carry water long distances, construct castles, etc...The accomplishments are long and continue today.
New Tech for a New World
The 3D printing industry has grown tremendously since 2010, and it is truly remarkable what a decade can bring to a sector. Designers are constantly adding "toys" to their toolbox; there's always another software available to create something. Today a designer is no longer limited by size or even building material. Did you know there is a machine capable of 3D printing a boat? There's another that can 3D print a home — and in record time!
In college (many years ago) me and other classmates had access to CNC technology which aided in producing intricate shapes from our drafting software. CNC stands for, "Computer Numerical Control": a sophisticated cutting function guided by a spinning machine tool and a software, usually found in woodworking or fabrication careers.
The purpose of CNC machines was to alleviate tedious hand cutting — which was imperfect and slow by nature — and increase cut precision and shape complexity on coarse materials like acrylic, MDF, or sheet metal.
I have worked alongside CNC operators for several years and it is exciting seeing a project come to life from a computer file. As a retail cabinetry designer, an important part of my job was to inform clients about the design and millwork process when they visited the showroom or assembly area. Client's are very curious (at least the good ones) and want to know how things happen and the time it takes to get a project completed and installed on site. And of course the price!
I'd like to believe that clients are impressed by how something goes from a computer to the cutting floor after they meet with me since an educated client is usually more understanding and appreciative. Everyone benefits from CNC technology since time is never on the designer's side.
Apis COr Printing a Wall
A.I. is here...but is it useful?
Even more stunning than CNC is the growing interest and advancement of artificial intelligence. While I have not kept up with the latest software, I am aware of BIM, which is short for "Building Information Model." In short, this 3D software allows a person to design a building — or a cabinet in my case — in various views and include construction information within the model's properties. Additionally, a drafter could adjust the model and the software would immediately update every plan or shop drawing throughout the file. Now that's impressive!
I admit this definition is very simple because my experience is limited to approximately three years working with Autodesk Revit (17 - 19); nevertheless, I was amazed by its effectiveness. Finally, a creative office would do well by implementing a software that aids in long form or multi-tasked functions. Why not adapt and make life a little easier? A calculator does the same thing; there's no time for long division.
And this leads me to the current blog post. Last week I had a conversation with my old college classmate, Rey, who is now an architect at Oppenheim Architecture. Rey and I chatted last week mostly about A.I. and it's growing allure in and out of the design world between email and text. Inspired by our messages, I decided to post some snippets in this post.
Artificial Intelligence - (a) the capacity of a computer, robot, or other programmed mechanical device to perform operations and tasks analogous to learning and decision making in humans, such as speech recognition or question answering. Abbreviations: AI, A.I.
(b) a computer, robot, or other programmed mechanical device having this humanlike capacity: teaching human values to artificial intelligences. Abbreviations: AI, A.I.
"The question isn't about A.I. usefulness, we know it is useful. The question is, 'How much are you going to delegate to the software?'" (ma)
"How much are individuals going to rely on A.I.? Making life and the design process easier doesn't necessarily mean better buildings or happier clients or better designers. Critical thinking is a developed art form. Design challenges should not be avoided or made too easy, if so, we risk being lazy and stunt our design muscles." (ma)
Rey isn't against A.I.; he's for it to be included in the design process which will inevitably bring speed and other positives to the design studio. But he admits it is not without it's confusion amongst individuals. Read on.
What is scary is A.I. is here and it's only going to get more intrusive. (rd)
...only a means to get to an end, but it is not the end itself which is where a lot of people confuse the two. (rd)
That's why I think you need to treat it as a tool in the toolbox — it expands your knowledge and techniques, but it's not the end all which people again think, 'Oh, I just hit a button and it's done'. Wrong. (rd)
I think Rey and I are on the same page; we both know that design isn't like Instant Oatmeal. Having said that, we know A.I. will definitely provide information for a designer to use, but I strongly believe A.I. should be kept on a short leash. Why? Because a designer's main function is to brainstorm and communicate ideas that are in his/her head. That is why "non-creative" people hire "creative" people, and designer's should not delegate a web application to do the work. The ability to brainstorm ideas is priceless, but if designers over rely on A.I., then they significantly reduce their value in the world, stunt their problem solving muscles, and ultimately threaten their paycheck when a client comes to write a check.
Man & Technology
A lot of architects have used computers and 3D software, but the most famous may be Frank Gehry. Gehry, the Canadian architect from Toronto, cannot be mentioned without Bilbao — the city and project that solidified his career.
Yes, everyone knows Gehry, unless you've been living under a rock.
Gehry creates magnificent flowy architecture — unique with steel and other cladding — but what some fail (or forget) to consider is the process required to make his concepts into a building; there's no button to press here. Gehry may be one of the most influential architects over the last 30 years, but even he needs a team to rectify his work. So who is more responsible for bringing Gehry's architecture to life? Gehry? His team? Software? The answer is all three: Gehry provides the spark, and his team/software are the oxen. Gehry and his associates are using very sophisticated software to bring forth a new way of building — one that is more precise and favorable to architects throughout the entire design and building process.
Credit: Frank Gehry. Photo by Irving Pennifrank Gehry, New York, 2006 | © Condé Nast
Excerpt from 60 minutes on Frank Gehry and Rick Smith 3D technology in Architecture
Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry & Associates. (Bilbao, Spain)
Thank you for reading!