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Club of Amsterdam Journal, May 2004, Issue 25
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Shaping Your Future in
the Knowledge Society

The Club of Amsterdam Journal appears 2 x per month.
You can find the online version at:
May 2004, Issue 25
the future of

Wednesday, May 19
The human condition in in World Religions


Institute for Global Futures

Internationale School voor Wijsbegeerte


Forum Barcelona 2004


  .Q&A with Jelle Feringa

Jelle Feringa, Architect, researcher, EZCT Architecture & Design Research

Club of Amsterdam: What is EZCT?
Jelle Feringa:
EZCT was created in 1999 and is an architectural research practice formed by an international and multi-disciplinary team. Due to the ever-increasing complexity of science and technology, EZCT uses new methodologies that are defined by cross-disciplinary interactions. As such EZCT established a network organization that allows specialized inputs and active involvements of outsourced theoreticians and academics. This rather unusual structure leads to an approach that considers architecture and design as a form of scientific research, as well as a part of a technological convergence process and information flux.

What are you researching in the context of EZCT?
Architecture occupied itself traditionally with the production of descriptions; drawings. By producing digital architecture we produce definitions; code which is not interpret by a person, but by a machine. In digital architecture architectural intentions are however still defined in lines, surfaces and volumes. Computational architecture defines these intentions in code instead of geometry. In many so called blob architecture projects, the relation between architectonic intention and resulting form seems rather indirect. In computational architecture, an absolute relation exists between intention and resulting form. Architecture is formalizing an intention and this is exact what you do writing code.



  .about the future of Architecture

Green Building Studio

Green Building Studio, a web service provided by GeoPraxis, Inc ., is the world’s first web service that gives 3D-CAD users quick, reliable, and free estimates of a building’s energy costs during the early stages of conceptual design.
Behind the scenes, Green Building Studio relies on a proprietary data management architecture and a voluminous but tightly integrated system of relational databases containing hourly weather data, design data, and regionally relevant libraries of default building characteristics with common energy code baselines.


Exploring a Virtual Future
by Pete Evans, AIA
The architecture profession is challenged by digital technologies on many fronts. Some of these technologies expand the way we practice and what we build. Some even reduce society's reliance on built architecture. Yet the pace of change can be overwhelming and may tempt us to take too a narrow view of these issues.
How do we appropriately embrace substantial changes digital technology is bringing to the practice, product, and teaching of architecture? How can we prepare for even larger and more unpredictable challenges in the future?
I believe we need to broaden our understanding of practice to include the tools, methods, and knowledge of other fields. We can get a glimpse of that future by looking at how some architects are already exploring it.

.News about the Future

White Box Robotics
White Box Robotics is a group of visionaries with their sights set on dynamic commercial robotic products. White Box Robotics mission is to become an industry leader and innovator of PC based mobile robotic platforms for the entertainment, educational, and personal robotics industry.
White Box Robotics has been working very closely with VIA Technologies, Inc. to create and define an entirely new industry called PC-BOTS. These robots are powered by an industry standard VIA Mini-ITX mainboard. This mainboard along with other hardware (hard drives, CD-Burners, DVD drives, web cams, etc.) are then installed in the White Box Robotics 912 mobile platform. The end result is an amazingly high-tech, functional mobile robot!

Center for Chemical Hydrogen Storage
According to Thomas J. Meyer, Associate Director for Strategic Research at Los Alamos, "Hydrogen storage has been a key technical barrier to developing a hydrogen economy in the United States. This new partnership will bring together expert researchers from the Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, with industry and academia experts to develop the science and technology needed to enable chemical hydrogen storage."
The new center is a step toward the development of a "hydrogen economy" -- an economy based not on the fossil fuels we use today, but on clean, abundant hydrogen fuels.


.Media Lab Europe
Media Lab Europe

Leveraging the innovative and entrepreneurial operating model of the world renowned MIT Media Lab, Media Lab Europe adopts an interdisciplinary approach to developing new ways in which technologies can expand human potential.
Media Lab Europe was founded in July 2000 as a collaborative venture between the Irish Government and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Modeled on the Media Laboratory at MIT, Media Lab Europe was established as a hybrid between academia and the corporate world, to create a unique new centre of excellence in digital technologies.

Some research areas:

Adaptive Speech Interfaces

The Adaptive Speech Interface group explores new ways for humans to interact with complex systems. We are exploring the use of multiple, coordinated, parallel modalities, with an emphasis on speech and language used together with more traditional tools such as keyboards and mice. Humans communicate with each other using many simultaneous modes, such as language, gesture, poise, etc. We believe that communication with machines will be facilitated by allowing a richer palette of interaction channnels operating simultaneously. We do this already, when we grumble threateningly at the computer, pointing to its error, saying "Don't do that!!! I wanted you to put that there!!". Someday, the computer will apologize and then do the right thing!

Human Connectedness

Humans have a fundamental need for contact with other humans. Our interactions and relationships with other people form a network that supports us, makes our lives meaningful, and ultimately enables us to survive. The Human Connectedness research group explores the topic of human relationships and how they are mediated by technology. Our mission is to conceive a new genre of technologies and experiences that allow us to build, maintain, and enhance relationships in new ways. We also aim to enable new kinds of individual bonds and communities that were not possible before but may be beneficial or fun.

Story Networks

Imagine the stories we would tell, if we could construct video movies as easily and playfully as we now use spoken language. The Story Networks group explores storymaking principles and technologies that enhance cinematic story creation and sharing as activities of intelligent play and seeks to discover the empowering and framing constraints of designing these experiences for digital delivery over emerging networks in contemporary social contexts. Research complements, informs and is informed by research on Media Fabrics at the Interactive Cinema group at the MIT Media Lab.

.Recommended Book

Asymptote: Flux
by Lise Anne Couture (Author), Hani Rashid
Asymptote, an award-winning New York City-based architectural firm, expands the boundaries of traditional practice with work that ranges from buildings and urban design to computer-generated environments. Recognized internationally as both cutting-edge architects and virtual-reality artists, Asymptote partners Lise Anne Couture and Hani Rashid have designed and written the first book to document their 'real world' (as opposed to virtual) projects completed since 1995. It includes work as diverse as a trading floor for the New York Stock Exchange; a multimedia research park in Kyoto, Japan; a modular furniture system for Knoll; and a centre for art and technology for the Guggenheim Museum in Soho, New York.
Rashid and Couture's work is intriguing because it draws inspiration from a wide range of sources not traditionally associated with architecture - among them the design of airline interiors, sporting equipment, and organic systems like seashells and honeycombs; and various means of communicating and disseminating information. Asymptote presents a seamless trajectory of projects organized in a non-linear fashion and illustrated with installation photographs, collaged photographs, and computer-generated diagrams and environments. The projects are interspersed with descriptive text and the speculative writing that Asymptote is known for.
Both partners combine architectural practice with teaching, Rashid at Columbia University and Couture at Columbia and Parsons School of Design.


Supporters of the Club of Amsterdam event about 'the future of Architecture' on Wednesday, May 19, 2004 are:


.Paul Holister


Paul Holister, CMP Cientifica (Research Director, director, shareholder); Cientifica (CIO/CTO, director, shareholder, co-founder); European NanoBusiness Association (Research Director, co-founder).

The opportunity to write something on a future-related subject of one's own choosing offers up an embarrassment of riches for anyone who has been close to technological developments of late. These days the future's not so much bright as kaleidoscopic.

Given the growing fashion for prognostication, and efforts to approach the future systematically and proactively, maybe a cautionary note is in order. This particular note concerns our tendency to underestimate complexity, especially in biological systems.

Artificial intelligence offers a classic example. The 1950s saw predictions of the imminent arrival of computers that could understand natural language. Yet decades after that dream was supposed to have been realised, Sony is boasting a robot that can, er, jog. Don't even think about striking up a conversation with it. And mastering bipedal perambulation is a universe away from making a machine you can chat with. Consider the following exchange.

He says, "I'm leaving you."
She says, "Who is she?"

Got the picture? Sure you have - it's simple. No it isn't, it's hugely complex. Think about it.

We make the mistake not just with the brain but biological systems in general. For how many decades has a cure for cancer been just a few years away? And why hasn't the mapping of the human genome produced the torrent of treatments that some predicted? Because life is rarely as simple as we imagine it. There's more to genes than just genes (and 'junk' DNA was such a convenient simplification; pity it was wrong).

So to those who suggest we will soon be able to build computers more intelligent than ourselves, tell them to come back when they've built a robot as sophisticated as an ant. To those who suggest that our growing ability to manipulate the world at the molecular level will automatically lead to a cure for cancer or even aging, tell them to come back when we've found a cure for the common cold, baldness and chronic acne.

Never forget that we are here as a result of Mother Nature running billions of parallel experiments over billions of years. That's one helluva R&D effort to match.

.Club of Amsterdam Upcoming Events

May 19, 2004

.the future of Architecture

June 23, 2004

.the future of Culture & Religion

September 27, 2004


January 26-28, 2005

.Summit for the Future


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