markpasc (markpasc) wrote,

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Quantum City

I tried to read Quantum City, but it was too.. well.. I hesitate to say postmodern because of certain sensitive viewers and because to be honest I don't fully understand what the word means. So I'll say it was too critical, by which I mean it was all meta and little substance. To be further honest I'm not sure I made it to the crux of the book, where Arida put forth and critiqued his actual argument, before packing it in—but I could see myself sailing through the rest of the book and right off the edge, with no actual content to slow me down. I got more out of the Carfree Cities web site than Quantum City. I couldn't find any there there, and the only thing I can say about the book is what I knew before—it's about the idea quantum theory as a metaphor for design of urban elements and processes—and it had a nice survey of cities in media: Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Blade Runner, and some I hadn't heard of. I'd meant to copy that, or at least make a list of everything he mentioned, but I didn't. Oh, well.

One reason I was tempted to say "too postmodern" is Arida's use of the term language where, above, I used metaphor: quantum theory as language of urban design. That clicks with what I understand as the postmodern tenet that everything is relative to the words you use to describe it. I'm wary of that argument in any context, maybe because as a software guy I make castles in the air out of language (for) yet that language has to be very exact, and must have already been explained to the computer in terms of very real nonlanguage constraints (against). You'd think the latter wins out, and maybe it does, but when you build enough turtles under your world you start to find emergent properties that can be advanced enough to be magic. I also can't argue that use patterns change reality, but still that's only where people are concerned. Antagonists usually frame it as a belief in supernatural phenomena like magic, where words and human intent can literally transgress physical rules; but I can't grant that, and I can't explain it away by conflating the soft, language-susceptible world of bits with the hard world of atoms (not that I know people do, but it seems to be an argument of antipostmodernists).

So I was way out of my depth and never finished the book (being a way overdue library book helped me quit), though I suppose I enjoyed the excursion.

In other news, dishwashers are not magic. You could wash dishes by hand if you had to.
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