BIM as though People Mattered

If you want to foster creativity and excellence, you have to introduce some boundaries. Teams need some privacy from one another to develop unique approaches to any kind of competition. Scientists need some time in private before publication to get their results in order. Making everything open all the time creates what I call a global mush. Jaron Lanier You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto


This post will introduce you to a book that will change society and alter the future.

But first, some back story.

The other night I was parked outside a bike shop near my home whose storefront window read: Body Machine Integration (BMI)

Being at one with their vehicle clearly appealed to the somnambulist bicyclists inside.

Sometimes Building Information Modeling (BIM) has us feeling like Bodily Integrated Machines (BIM).

After a long day modeling it is easy to feel like we have to call someone over to our workstation to pry us away from our machines.

We now work and live in environments where the line between you and your screen is becoming thinner and thinner.

Promotional materials for BIM products suggests that they “think like an architect” but all too often you discover that you have to think like your software.

This is old stuff for those that have worked in CAD – who, after a long day at work, would fall asleep at night only to dream that they were inserted in a CAD drawing.

Thinking in abbreviated commands and talking in macros.

MIT’s William J. Mitchell has long warned – or promised, depending on your outlook –  about our evolving into cyborgs.

But that’s not the book, nor the author, that will make a sign post of 2010.

Voodoo Architecture

So I naturally googled Body Machine Integration for architects and came up with…Archibots? Archibots are the latest thing in the emerging area of “Architectural Robotics” – intelligent and adaptable physical environments at all scales.

It is somewhat comforting to know that this is about robotic technologies embedded in the built environment – not people. 

Soon you’ll have the opportunity to hire one of these to do your drafting – or better yet, input information into your BIM.

Archibots: a workshop on intelligent and adaptable built environments was held last Fall by students at Clemson U.

The second fragment of this stop-motion video from the event – from a collection of stop-motion vision videos created by participants in the Archibots workshop – indicates the possibility of modifying an as-built BIM model has the parallel effect on the actual built building the model represents. Almost like a voodoo doll.

Voodoo architecture where you modify the model and the building changes.

My office is missing! Who left the model unlocked again?!

Imagine where you drag-and-drop materials and textures off of your laptop screen onto adjacent surfaces.

And they become those surfaces.

Where the line between you and your screen disappears, the two become indistinguishable.

It gets you thinking about where things are going (holograms, artificial intelligence, singularity, according to designintelligence.)

One day, everyday robotics embedded in our built environment will increasingly support and augment work, school, entertainment, leisure activities – as well as the construction industry – in an increasingly digital society.

You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto

Which brings us to Jaron Lanier, the 1980s Silicon Valley dreadlocked visionary who coined the term virtual reality and was among the first to predict the revolutionary changes the internet would bring to the worlds commerce and culture, and has now written a long-awaited book: You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, an editor’s selection Best Book of the Month.

You Are Not a Gadget is being called “a useful, respectful dialogue about how we can shape technology to fit culture’s needs, rather than the way technology currently shapes us.”

It is also being called a “most thought-provoking, human, and inspiring critique of the computerized world of information that has yet been written.”

In the book, Lanier discusses the technical and cultural problems that can grow out of poorly considered digital design, and cautions against the current Web 2.0 fad which elevates the wisdom of the hive mind over the intelligence and judgment of individuals.

In You Are Not a Gadget, Lanier argues that the idea of collective is smarter than the individual is wrong. Why is this?

Here’s Jaron Lanier on Collaboration: There are some cases where a group of people can do a better job of solving certain kinds of problems than individuals. One example is setting a price in a marketplace. Another example is an election process to choose a politician. All such examples involve what can be called optimization, where the concerns of many individuals are reconciled. There are other cases that involve creativity and imagination. A crowd process generally fails in these cases. The phrase “Design by Committee” is treated as derogatory for good reason. That is why a collective of programmers can copy UNIX but cannot invent the iPhone.

Biological cells have walls, academics employ temporary secrecy before they publish, and real authors with real voices might want to polish a text before releasing it. In all these cases, encapsulation is what allows for the possibility of testing and feedback that enables a quest for excellence. To be constantly diffused in a global mush is to embrace mundanity.

Here’s Jaron Lanier on Intellectual Content: On one level, the Internet has become anti-intellectual because Web 2.0 collectivism has killed the individual voice. It is increasingly disheartening to write about any topic in depth these days, because people will only read what the first link from a search engine directs them to…Or, if the issue is contentious, people will congregate into partisan online bubbles in which their views are reinforced. I don’t think a collective voice can be effective for many topics, such as history–and neither can a partisan mob. Collectives have a power to distort history in a way that damages minority viewpoints and calcifies the art of interpretation. Only the quirkiness of considered individual expression can cut through the nonsense of mob–and that is the reason intellectual activity is important.

A must read.

BIM as though people mattered

Here are 10 things you can do to keep the body-machine integration at bay – and help you to remain you human and keep your feelings alive – while building information models:

  • Spend time in nature
  • Sit in front of a favorite painting at the museum over lunch
  • Read a poem
  • Keep your passion for architecture alive by revisiting the work you love & admire
  • Or get a daily dose of architecture here
  • Know yourself, your preferences, by cutting out things that appeal to you at a visceral level (no thinking required) and by keeping a file of these images
  • Keep a list of the things you know for certain that you like, love, enamor and return to it often for sustenance
  • Read The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America
  • Keep your passion for work alive by remaining awake at work
  • Listen to your favorite music every day (you know where to find it)
  • Watch The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, A Single Man or another film directed by a visual artist

What are some of the things you recommend doing to keep it real and stay human in the face of the technological forces at work?


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Filed under BIM, collaboration, Integrated Design, modeling, people, Uncategorized

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