this morning I woke up to watch some of the work being done with the smart slab project at eth Zurich. what is the smart slab? or for that matter, the world of large-scale 3d printed materials from concrete, metals, and glasses? it is the transition of scale from the current limits of 3d printing to a place where the costs will come down and the process and technology will be in the mainstream commercial world and/or will allow for small groups to ramp up to do big things. an exciting time when you bring in the reality of artificial intelligence and one day articulated buildings that will move/adapt/change based on what is needed.
the ideas to use only what is needed and allow for articulation of space is one of those purposes we have with augmanity. it is just that we are more concerned with humans than buildings at this time.
my fascination with ETH Zurich it is loaded with so many amazing groups and technologies, but it suffers a bit from traditional academia meeting more of a swiss societal model. while there may be skunkworks operations inside the place, I have yet to learn. what is that joke about Swiss banking secrecy? "oh you are an American, sorry, you can't have a bank account." but it is a bit like going to Harvard square and sitting in the coffee shop. you have some really brilliant minds working and chattering away with ideas about anything. it is like a little bubble world inside the larger construct of the world and the reality there – doesn’t work like the reality of the normal world.
in the area of making products and I must confess, it is so much nicer to design in a computer and hit a few buttons to make something that is square, level, etc. working with hands, I spent all the years picking up the various skill sets needed to make things, but also, with my old engineer Jim, we ended up making a lot of the tools to make the things. the reason is that you could spend loads of money to buy one, and if you were a group that was a large deep-pocketed organization or university – money wasn’t an object. but for smaller, nimble groups, you want speed and the ability to move very rapidly…so you basically build you owns really ugly looking things that do the function to get something close enough. that was only a few years ago…today, you can design and scale in a computer and voila…” there it is!” soon...voila...build your own "big" version of it.
cool beans, no?
what I do wonder is what will happen to the arts in the future. what I am seeing in architecture and other areas is people are designing with what the mathematics of a computer will allow. not necessarily what they have in their mind. one area I am poking into that is relatively new is a lot of the work ETH Zurich has in their labs. the architecture lab is using slick bots, you have some wonderful prototyping space all over – and yet – the parts don’t blend all that well. it is the same issue I ran into in Denver. you have all the parts, in the same areas, yet, the protocol, ego, and fiefdom building does not allow for a flow of all the parts. the issue is in humans, not the machines or activity. this is why we are sitting here designing the mobile lab/workspace.
where are we with that? it is interesting and cool, and yes, it does present a series of nightmarish problems in that we have to go high tech with materials, weights, articulation and other elements. it is why I was happy to see where what was a few robots a few years ago working on some really amazing structures with the smart slab. the reasons are that it is a physical reality to some ideas that I am guessing many people have wanted and wondered about doing. every show or sculpture idea I ever had in my life was large or big. I am not sure why? I can imagine some amazing, fun, and custom ideas for applications and what intrigues me much more is that the machines will take human ideas and then modify them in ways that will probably optimize strength, rigidity, and even the molecular flow of materials to produce lighter, stronger, and seemingly unlimited shapes.
while this is cool. what I see in most shapes is that it looks more like someone playing with a new toy than asking, “is this really good? will it stand the test of time with design? or is this simply going to lead to a place where society and buildings get disposable?” I saw this in Japan with shows when you would watch them tear down what appeared to be a relatively new building, to make another new one. it is the cost of land was so high, that it made sense. it also can lead you to space where you create a trashy disposable society. (i.e.- look at where the united state's mass has gone with quality)
in typing this, I have just talked myself into understanding why the Swiss build for 500 years with houses and such. granted, the politics of the country have given it a blessing for sitting out the horrors of warfare in some respects, while not particularly innocent from the backside of the world of finance – but it is what it is. there is a lot of cool and interesting innovation going on at the school, of which, I am a grown adult and the ideas we had for augmanity took traveling around the world with shows and the research and development with technologies for shows to manipulate human emotion. when we got to the place of the realities of virtual and augmented worlds, and what one can really do with it – well…we unplugged. now we are coming at the same issues from a very different perspective and path with people, places, and spaces.
I look at the visuals of the smart slab and in its current form, it might make me a bit crazy. maybe I should write to the folks there and see if I can just take and have a cup of coffee and sit in the space for a bit and see what it does to me. what I do know is I marvel at what is possible with the design and while I have seen crude large-scale crane printers…I get where there is a limit on the slab idea…
guess I have to see it, as there are a lot of ideas for the developed and the 3rd world where I can see great applications for. and then there is the graphene area…hmm
sorry to ramble. I am sitting in the united states, it I raining, I am covering a wall with three main projects we want to build that will all come out of one strange company….most days you have no clue how to really make that reality, as our path comes not from the gilded halls of academia, nor the fortune 100 mentality…but more like the scrappy street fighter with a dream that had to learn to use speed and agility because they weren’t as big as the others. it has led us to where we are today – of which – I am excited to see how technology will be available to all and not require you to learn 20 trades like in the past.
I guess this is where I look out at society and everyone staring into their phones and mobiles. watching.
maybe my problem is I like to watch people….I used to brainstorm in coffee shops because people were so fun to watch. but today – everyone looks the same. people stare into their mobiles, oblivious to people next to them. walking down 5th ave in New York I had to laugh at the number of people just blindly seeming to walk into things because they were too busy on their social media. it is an interesting irony – people want to be social – yet, we are forgetting the people that are right next to us
it is like the agrowspace. originally it was, “can you help starving folks in faraway places and lands…” as we worked with it all, you realize that everywhere on the planet have the same problems. inside the USA, I think you have 40million people that are hungry, yet, we have an ever increasing size of people and the elements of obesity.
my fear with all the new technology is that it will further separate a few people from the reality of most. it doesn’t have to be that way, but I don’t have any answer for greed, power, envy, lust and gluttony cures. years ago I sketched out a drink/beverage line that was I guess a precursor to biohacking, but each bottle was fortified with some seeming magical substance to cure some problem.
you can invent and wrap all the technology around a human you wish. it won’t cure or solve the deeper issues inside them. it might medicate them or cover the issue up, much like makeup and the old southern ideal of, “if it like right, it must be alright.”
what I found is much like the smart slab idea. if humans were smart slabs, you would see us look more like the product that the computer produces instead of what humans have come to use because of our limits. we use blocks, and structures, whereas if you look at how much the smart slabs eliminate and still retain what is needed – you see how much we don’t really need.
it is the same for humans. what do we really need?
why do we seem to want so much? even if we know it is not necessarily good for us?
maybe I will pick up the phone and call the folks in some labs in ETH Zurich…it is a very different culture working there than in the states or other parts of the world. that probably is what mystifies me with Switzerland. the conservative nature of the way things are done and the web of Swiss banking secrecy of relationships and connections does not bode well if you are simply one that looks at an idea and simply goes and builds it and asks, "what if?" what I do know is that there is probably a very sweet and wonderful place and space in the middle of both where I wager innovation and adaptation for the good of many will produce more results than the sum of just the two alone.
it will simply require each human to give up a little bit of control and learn to behave at a higher version or level of what they are capable of. I know a few people trying this in Switzerland, I see it opening at a wholesale level in the states, yet, what I don’t see, or know, is if people really can and want to share for the betterment of the social good? from a cultural standpoint Switzerland and Japan are like this – yet – I see a lot of people and talents closeted and hidden. in the states, I see the opposite where a lot of people and talents probably should remain in the closet and folks can practice till they get to a level that goes beyond promoting mediocrity and calling it talent.
the last few paragraphs are my personal thoughts in one moment of my life, as I sip a coffee, look at the wall filling with all the pieces and parts…hmm….whoever says they are bored in life…I feel a bit sorry for them.
find your passion, go after your dreams…it is amazing what you learn walking out the journey on the path called life. we tend to complicated having a beautiful one.