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The Singularity of Architectural Design

Dec , 20

The singularity – is a hypothetical future point in time when technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilisation. In a singularity hypothesis, called intelligence explosion, an upgradable intelligent machine will eventually enter a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles, that qualitatively far surpasses all human intelligence. This could be an apocalyptic point in future, where the human race would become redundant on the face of the earth.

It is worrying, at least, if this would ever happen, as in many science-fiction novels where the future is managed by machines. The first use of the concept of a “singularity” in the technological context was John von Neumann. Some researchers have estimate this to happen in only a couple of decades ahead, so, most probably, within your lifespan.

Whether we’ll experience or not in our lives the point of singularity, the advance in technology is unstoppable and brings advantages as well as concerns upon working and living, or better to say, “‘how” we would work and live in the near future. Then, this also affects our work as Architects. How necessary the profession of Architect will be as we know today? Well, it depends on the real outcome of the Singularity.

Singularity may happen not in a way of a catastrophic outcome for the human kind, instead, it could happen as an smooth transformation into “augmented” reality, where humans are still the core of the civilization. If this is the case, then, probably, the jobs of Architects would be even more important than they are today, although with some changes in the process.

Architecture has changed its way to be professed, from oral instructions in ancient times to BIM (Building Information Management) technology nowadays. “Human” Architects were then, and still are, the core of the profession.

But the arising of AI (Artificial Intelligence) is casting shadows on the future of our profession as we know it today, with a number of platforms – some of them already on the internet – proposing automated design solutions, without the direct human interface between client and server.

Badly enough for the bast majority of us, the architects, specially young professionals lacking enough experience and clients’ base, to see how machines are replacing them on the automated parts of our jobs, such as drafting, computing, budgeting and some parts of planning.

Still, talented Architects will not be replaced by machines, since the creativeness lays in the neuronal network of our brain, our best computer still, and this should last at least, till Singularity becomes a reality.

Moreover, in the event of an smooth transformation (not the catastrophic one) realisation of Singularity, we might well get all of the advantage of using technology, in order to, not only save time, but exploring deeper and deeper into more and more efficient, sustainable and economically viable architectural solutions: we will use these algorithms to produce multiple output on an specific task we need to evaluate, but the final decision on what solution would be best, will still rest on a human architect.

PS: the artwork depicted in this post is the work of artist Tatiana Sarukhanova. They were used as decoration in an office fit-out project developed by JTA architecture in Novy Arbat, Moscow, Russia.

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