← Living computation, cities, & websites

What exactly is living computation? To me, this is a rough idea of having something which grows organically (here to mean without human intervention). In code, things can only grow stale and grow old, but it is rare (dare I say impossible) that a program that grows better over time. I feel the same way with cities. Any dynamism that is felt is because of the nature that is constantly changing and the people there who are constantly reinventing, maintaining, and adapting just what that city is.

How could something grow better overtime by itself?

This is closely evolution and the open-ended search that it is. It is the most innovative and creative process we have ever observed or come across. Just this minimal drive to survive is enough to create such variety.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because what would it mean for a city to grow into itself? For buildings to adapt their shape to naturally accommodate what surrounds them. What does it mean for a website to grow without its creator? In a way, I’d like for everything I do to somehow make it back to this website to create a more nuanced image of myself. The questions tab hasn’t been updated in foreverrr.

The city problem feels also impossible. To be a city means to be lived in, that there are humans (at least from this anthropogenic viewpoint). Could we create a city without humans? Can a city be built without purpose? Instead of places for humans to live in, what would it mean for a city to be truly alive? That would mean it has to meet the minimum criterion, of reproducing? What meme would a city replicate? To me, that would be the culture inside, but that culture is history, human history. There is no city because there is no human. But could there be something deeper down that a city is trying to propagate?

It seems like fighting decay is a never ending process, and even if energy isn’t being put in on my part, something has to be putting in the energy to continually make anew. Somethings like link aggregators perhaps fit this bill or something like YouTube which is merely a content host, but their personalities are the work of human teams which constantly put in work.

My website at the current moment feels dead. There are dates for when things were last updated, but you’re only ever looking at less dead webpages, not alive ones. Perhaps once I save links, they could automatically populate into my notebooks for me to inspect, but I’d like to think of some way for the accretion of moments and events and ideas that I call my life to be reflected on here. Even though we pretend like we have digital gardens, nothing grows here on its own. We cannot be surprised by what our website has become while we were gone. There are two options: stasis or decay. But that third option, that option of turning an abandoned railroad into a park, of life finding a way in the most hospitable of areas, how can that feeling be evinced in our creations?

I’m not satisfied by using others as a fake front for aliveness, but I’m not sure we have a truly computational, non-human way to create this never ending novelty. That’s the problem I truly care about, so perhaps it’s time for a notebook on evolution.

On evolution, there are some interesting things like the demon horde sort and the notion that our computing shouldn’t be correct first, it should be robust first. It should be made of tiny units that don’t require each other be perfect, but that they be “right enough”, whatever that may mean.

Do we want cities to be alive?

What are some solutions to this?

One solution is the one you’re currently reading, that I use this site as my thinking ground (which I once did), but what if I find some other fad? No matter how I go about thinking, I have to put my thoughts into writing, and they have to go online somehow. Maybe the problem isn’t that this website is dead, but merely that the person inside, was. Well not literally, but perhaps creatively and intellectually.