1a. Effective Complexity

I think Tokyo’s Shibuya Cross is an interesting example of effective complexity. This pedestrian crossing system is orderly yet chaotic. There are traffic laws and order when looking at the urban planning from above; we recognize the intersection, light signals, and an indicated pathway for people to walk from one street to another. Yet as many as 2,500 people navigate across every time the light changes, creating chaos yet somehow avoiding deathly collisions.

But if everyone crossed with their smartphones (as humans naturally do), then the system becomes even more complex:

1b. The Problem of Uniqueness

Does it diminish the value of the art when unique objects can be mass-produced? (Gallant 2016)

Digital generative art introduces a completely new problem: rather than offering an endless supply of copies, it provides an endless supply of original and unique artifacts.


The arguments surrounding the idea of human touch and an artist’s uniqueness in products, digital or analog, really excites me. Studying product design, we’ve had discussion about designing products and forms that lie on the spectrum between emotive and personal, to cold and machined. Basically understanding when a product looks like there was a human behind it (personal touch, possibly imperfect, individualistic), or a machine (looks like it was meant for the masses, too perfect, utilitarian).

So far in my design education, I’ve been making everything by hand so all my products are uniquely mine, a signature if you will. As much as I can say with pride that I not only designed the product but I made it with my own hands (yay for human touch), it is a tiring process. For me, I find the idea that an algorithm can create unlimited unique products to be extremely helpful and efficient for the design process. As much as I would enjoy thinking and designing originally, there have been so many instances where I get stuck and can’t iterate off a concept. I don’t want to sound like I’m lazy and that I want a robot to do my job for me. But I think as systems and problems become more complicated to design for, being able to iterate to an unlimited degree is efficient in the design process. It’s almost scary to think about a future where robots can make creative decisions, and may replace designers and artists though that it still quite a ways in autonomous technology. But ultimately, I think this is an emerging field where we can’t even visualize the potential and power of limitless iterations. When it comes to the value in unique products created algorithmically, I think that will be up to the user and audience. Whether something was created by a machine or human, I find it extremely gratifying and appreciative that it is one of its kind. But who knows, if everyone started to say, “I have a one of a kind iPhone ” it may become mainstream and less valuable really quickly.



Comments are closed.