Commenced in January 2007
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Evaluating Complexity – Ethical Challenges in Computational Design Processes

Authors: J.Partanen

Abstract:

Complexity, as a theoretical background has made it easier to understand and explain the features and dynamic behavior of various complex systems. As the common theoretical background has confirmed, borrowing the terminology for design from the natural sciences has helped to control and understand urban complexity. Phenomena like self-organization, evolution and adaptation are appropriate to describe the formerly inaccessible characteristics of the complex environment in unpredictable bottomup systems. Increased computing capacity has been a key element in capturing the chaotic nature of these systems. A paradigm shift in urban planning and architectural design has forced us to give up the illusion of total control in urban environment, and consequently to seek for novel methods for steering the development. New methods using dynamic modeling have offered a real option for more thorough understanding of complexity and urban processes. At best new approaches may renew the design processes so that we get a better grip on the complex world via more flexible processes, support urban environmental diversity and respond to our needs beyond basic welfare by liberating ourselves from the standardized minimalism. A complex system and its features are as such beyond human ethics. Self-organization or evolution is either good or bad. Their mechanisms are by nature devoid of reason. They are common in urban dynamics in both natural processes and gas. They are features of a complex system, and they cannot be prevented. Yet their dynamics can be studied and supported. The paradigm of complexity and new design approaches has been criticized for a lack of humanity and morality, but the ethical implications of scientific or computational design processes have not been much discussed. It is important to distinguish the (unexciting) ethics of the theory and tools from the ethics of computer aided processes based on ethical decisions. Urban planning and architecture cannot be based on the survival of the fittest; however, the natural dynamics of the system cannot be impeded on grounds of being “non-human". In this paper the ethical challenges of using the dynamic models are contemplated in light of a few examples of new architecture and dynamic urban models and literature. It is suggested that ethical challenges in computational design processes could be reframed under the concepts of responsibility and transparency.

Keywords: urban planning, architecture, dynamic modeling, ethics, complexity theory.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1060233

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