Tag Archives: Philosophy

10 Blogs We're Reading… well, keeping an eye on

10 Blogs We’re Reading… well, keeping an eye on…
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

We say ‘reading’ but really it is ‘periodically checking in on’ because there is way too much content to keep up with everything on the web. We have over 30 newspapers and online journals from the United States and Europe alone bookmarked for daily review! The Outlaw Urbanist is backlogged over a year with interesting news articles we have saved for re-posting on the blog. We are only now (very slowly) beginning to diligently work our way through this backlog. In the meantime, we encourage you to visit these blogs (in no particular order).

1.  Clusterfuck Nation by James Howard Kunstler
Now archived on www.kunstler.com but still worth a periodic visit. He is on Twitter but not much so you can follow @Jhkunstler.

2.  The Original Green and StudioSky Blog by Steve Mouzon
Mouzon is on Twitter a lot but his feed ebs and flows, you can follow .

3.  The Power of the Network by Tim Stonor (Twitter: @Tim_Stonor)

4.  The Pure Hands by Dr. Nick “Sheep” and Professor Ruth Dalton
You can follow Sheep on Twitter and Ruth . He is on Twitter more often than her.

5.  Tiny House Blog by Kent Griswold (Twitter @kentgriswold)

6.  Failed Architecture by Michiel van Iersel et al out of Amsterdam (Twitter @FailedArch)

7.  Spatial Disjunctures by David Jeevendrampillai
(UCL Research Student whose blog has gone quiet for over a year but we hope returns soon)

8.  Urban Formation or Mapping Urban Form and Society by Dr. Laura Vaughan
Professor of Urban Form and Society at UCL, whose blog has also gone quiet for six months… we’re all very busy these days. Laura tends to be on Twitter more than most and she often actively engages in interesting discussions via her feed @urban_formation.

9.  Moser Design Group by R. Eric Moser (Twitter @Moserdesign)

10.  Urbanism Speakeasy by Andy Boenau
We’re not sure if this qualifies as a blog since it is a podcast series… perhaps an audio blog. Andy is a active participant on Twitter .

PoorRichardv2_FrCoverPurchase your copy of Poor Richard, Another Almanac for Architects and Planners (Volume 2) today!

Available in print from Amazon, CreateSpace, and other online retailers.

Available on iBooks from the Apple iTunes Store.

Available on Kindle in the Kindle Store.

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Poor Richard 1.0 | Now Available on Kindle

PoorRichardv1_FrntCoverPoor Richard, AN Almanac for Architects and Planners (2013) offered anew proverbs and witticisms about the architecture, urban design and planning of our cities. It was hailed as a “worthwhile”, “hilariously righteous epitome” for its “genius, extraordinary wit, passion for good design, and mastery of the history of planning” in “following both Benjamin Franklin and Ambrose Bierce” (Review by Harold Henderson, Planning Magazine, February 2014 and Foreword by Julia Starr Sanford to Poor Richard, AN Almanac for Architects and Planners).

The first volume of the Poor Richard series is now available for purchase in the Kindle Store for $1.99 (prices may vary in Europe, South America, and the Far East, check the Kindle Store in your country for prices).

For the best digital eBook experience, the author recommends purchasing the iBook version of the book (see below).

Poor Richard, Volume 1 is also available in print from Amazon, CreateSpace, and other online retailers as well as iBooks from the Apple iTunes Store.

Coming Soon! Poor Richard, Volume 2!

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On Space | …and Time | Mark David Major

The past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities.”
– Stephen Hawking

NOTE This post is not about architecture or urbanism. It is about space in a tangential, generic way in terms of space-time. I do not have the scientific or mathematical skills to either prove or disapprove the hypothesis discussed in this post. It is likely some physicist much smarter than myself has already contemplated this idea and applied the mathematics to discount the idea. It is also possible I am discussing something already accepted in the scientific community (i.e. reinventing the wheel, see the Stephen Hawking quote above). In fact, variations about this idea have existed for decades in the realm of science fiction/fantasy though I cannot recall a previous articulation in the exact manner of this post. However, this idea came to me in a rush during one morning over coffee and so fired my imagination that I had to write some notes so I did not forget it. This post is an expansion on those notes. There is a small possibility that this idea is entirely new. If so, I leave it to (much smarter and capable) physicists to explore the mathematics and validity of the idea. I only ask for some credit in providing the spark to their ideas. I have attempted to represent the premise of this post in the diagram below. I am coming at this concept of time from the point of view of a historian, writer, and dreamer.

Diagram illustrating the relationship between entropy and probability in space-time from past to present to future (Credit: Mark David Major).

On the Constant Present and Variable Future Past
– Past Imperfect and Imprecise Future
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A

Time is a universal constant, according to my understanding of the science. By universal constant, it means that time flows at a constant rate much like the speed of light is 186,282 miles/sec everywhere in the universe. Of course, the exception is if one travels at or near the speed of light, then time slows down for the traveler while time flows at its constant rate for the non-traveler based on Einstein’s theory of relativity. This is not a deterrent to the ideas in this post. For example, my understanding is Newton’s universal laws do not apply at the quantum level of our universe yet they are still applicable as scientific laws.

The premise of the ‘multiverse’ has gained greater acceptance in the scientific community over the last three decades. In the realm of science fiction, this idea has been around much longer; more than a century if we consider H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) as the starting point. In terms of time, the concept of the multiverse imagines that every scenario of events/actions in nature (including those specifically human) are played out across an infinite number of dimensions (perhaps portrayed most famously in Star Trek beginning in the 1967 episodes “Mirror, Mirror” and “The City on the Edge of Forever”, which used this premise for dramatic purposes). In terms of the flow of time, this can be imagined as a ‘time tree’ whereby an infinite series of lines branch off at various points in the past to run parallel with our own time line, like the branches of a tree where the root of the trunk is the Big Bang and the dimensions of ‘multiverse’ diverge from this earliest point in time. You can also refer to Doc Brown’s simplistic chalk board drawing and explanation to Marty in Back to the Future II). It is a tantalizing concept. However, Einstein’s theories tell us that time travel is not possible; or, at least, it is accepted that time travel to the past is not possible (the future, maybe, according to some physicists). The usual shorthand for this is the ‘grandfather paradox’, which is if I travel to the past and kill my grandfather then I never existed to travel to the past and kill my grandfather, i.e. a temporal paradox.

But what if this premise of time is inaccurate? What are the implications if we invert our ‘time tree’ and anchor the root to the present? The future and the past become “a spectrum of possibilities” (or probabilities) whereby the past converges on the present and diverges into the future. In this sense, time flows at a constant rate but is fluid. NOTE: After later reading an article about time by a philosopher of science in England, we can add the concept of entropy to this picture; namely, entropy is only stable in the present and becomes increasingly unstable in both the past and the future (6 September 2017 revision).

This means the past, present and future are always changing based on the probability of small moments (decisions, actions, events) across time, and time itself is overlapping waves of probabilities anchored to the present. We do not perceive this because we are always trapped in this particular point of time-space that we call the present. We could only observe the fluctuating waves of time and history if we could simultaneously exist in the present and ‘outside’ of that point in time; in the same manner that Einstein explained the theory of relativity from the point of view of the observer and the observed traveling at the speed of light.

The past only ‘appears’ fixed to us but the probabilities of the past (some probable, others unlikely) are always altering our perception of the present, just as we do the same for an infinite number of probable futures. For example, according to the Wikipedia entry on the Holocaust, the Nazis exterminated approximately 11 million (nearly 7.25 million Jews) between 1941 and 1945. Note: This example is not intended to be controversial but merely illustrative in gross, easily understood terms. I understand this Wikipedia said the same thing yesterday and believe it will say the same tomorrow but only because I am anchored in the present, which defines my perception of yesterday and tomorrow. But if the past is a series of probabilities constantly changing the present, then it is possible this Wikipedia entry stated yesterday/tomorrow it was/is 10 million or 12 million. The lowest probability outcome would be that the Wikipedia entry will state/did stated tomorrow/yesterday that the Nazis exterminated the entire Jewish race or the Nazis didn’t exterminate anyone (or even existed). Without being able to observe time from outside its flow, I can never be certain.

Our actions in the past, present, and future continually shape history within an infinite set of probabilities measuring from unlikely (-) to likely (+). At the same time, time tends to converge on the highest probabilities in giving shape to the present, just as our actions in the present (in small ways at this specific point in time) give shape to the probable outcomes of the future. This is free will as measured in our actions; past, present, and future in giving shape to what was, what is, and what will be. However, there is also a balance to time in the universe as it tends to converge on the highest probabilities. This is not predestination but what we could term ‘pre-probabilistic’. In nature, it takes a dramatic event to change the probabilities; for example, the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) extinction event caused by an asteroid impact that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. In human history, altering the probabilities is more easily achieved (if that is the right word) at the level of the collective; for example the Black Death pandemic from 1346–53 that killed somewhere between 75 and 200 million people in Europe. It takes a rare individual to alter the probabilities of history. For example, Alexander the Great directly gave rise to the Hellenistic Period. It is probable that the influence of Greek culture on the Roman Republic/Empire (and later on European and American models of representative government) still would have occurred but, absence Alexander’s ambitions for conquest, Philip I of Macedon or some other’s Greek’s ambitions would have been limited to Greece itself/Greek cities of Asia Minor and Darius III’s Persian Empire probably does not fall, which trickles down to affect the probabilities that eventually converge on the present. In fact, based on this concept of time, such people (Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, and so forth) do not ‘fulfill’ their destiny but overcome their destiny to profoundly alter the probabilities of times. It seems likely this happens all the time on a smaller, imperceptible scale for some people.

This concept of time appears to ‘fit’ well with Einstein’s ideas that time travel is not possible. Perhaps, though, it would be more accurate to state that if you did time travel, you could never certain of arriving in the most probable past or future that defines the nature of your present. First, you would have to locate, observe and map the probabilities of the past and future from outside of time-space itself. This is as good as a definition of the omnipotent as any, i.e. God. Second, this would be mathematically impossible since the probabilities from every event/action in history would be infinite. Perhaps it would be feasible in some manner to ‘random sample’ the probabilities by first mapping the least probable extremes (Nazis never existed, Nazis conquered the world) and work towards the most probable (Nazis exterminated 10.9 or 11.1 million people during the Holocaust). However, even this is a daunting task because how could you determine and map the extremes of lowest probability in an infinite set? It cannot be done except in a partial, incomplete manner. At least, not without taking some mathematical shortcuts, i.e. cheats. This always brings you back to an uncertainty principle in time travel. You could never be certain of arriving in the right place or time because the only ‘anchor’ is the present.

There is something comforting in this concept of time because our actions do matter but, at the same time, time in the universe develops a ‘self-correcting’ mechanism based on the laws of entropy and probability whereby time tends to converge on those possibilities with the greatest likelihood. If I travel back in time and kill my grandfather, then my ‘grandmother’ marries my grandfather’s brother (greatest chance is my grandmother marries someone most similar to my grandfather). I still exist as a slightly modified version of myself derived from the same gene pool to travel back in time and kill my now-great uncle. We can change the future and the past is always changing us but only through tremendous efforts in altering the parameters in probability do we make certain outcomes more or less probable. It also means there is only one ‘now’ – carpe diem.

On Space is a regular series of philosophical posts from The Outlaw Urbanist. These short articles (usually about 500 words) are in draft form so ideas, suggestions, thoughts and constructive criticism are welcome.

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On Space | The Urban Trinity

On Space | The Urban Trinity
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A

The spatial averts everything from a congruent state of existence, a simultaneous state of being, in a single place. The syntactic averts everything from bearing the same significance, a paradox of identical meanings denoting nothing. The functioning of the urban object embeds and bears its spatial logic. The spatial logic of the urban object has an explicit and expressive function. It is one and the same, in which we join with space and function in forming a Trinity of the Urbane. It is not holy nor unholy, neither sanctified not glorified; it merely is… However, its beingness can be soiled, colored scarlet, in the guises of human arrogance, hiding behind a mask of intellectual wisdom that bears no fruit, only thorns for the human condition. In our pursuit to grasp the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, too often we forget to bask in the masonry garden surrounding us. In failing to observe and acknowledge the state of being in the here and now, we betray the elemental beingness of the city, the place, of the street, and the hearth. The urban object is made of parts and a whole; the parts amalgamate to compose and configure, to convey and reflect meaning, in the body of the whole. We cannot understand one without knowing the other. To attempt to do so is a fool’s errand.

Humanity has never lacked for an insufficient sum of jesters, offering cruel jokes in place of genuine wit, embodied within a wisdom that is nurtured and earned well. We are fools but we must arise above our nature. We are angels but we must inevitably fall to Earth. We exist in a linear state from birth to death. We move in a linear state from here to there and back again. We construct the world in our image and find that it, too, is linear, from where we have been to where we are going, from the needs of the present to the desires for tomorrow, better than it was, yet always lacking in what is to come. The stage is set and three actors stroll onto the stage, spouting dichotomies to an unsuspecting audience, seeking acceptance and, perhaps, even forgiveness. One proclaims, “The space of the city is neutral, without meaning nor consequence!” Another steps forward and shouts loudly, “The spatial experience of the city is only ever reflective of ourselves, so look within for real answers!” The last holds back and merely whispers, “The city is a machine for seeing, going, and being; knowable, understandable, and capable of qualification and quantification. Remember who you are, imagine what you might become, and quality shall emerge from the quantity of the thing itself.” The operation of the city has a spatial reasoning. The spatial reasoning of the city has a purpose. It is one and the same. We must pursue it. We must achieve it. We must nurture it. It is our city.

On Space is a regular series of philosophical posts from The Outlaw Urbanist. These short articles (usually about 500 words) are in draft form so ideas, suggestions, thoughts and constructive criticism are welcome.

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On Space | The Synthetic City

On Space | The Synthetic City
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A

The city is not mere reflection but indefinite inflection and precise infection, where we are cancer and panacea, the never-ending path to its restoration. Its genesis resides in synthesis, its understanding lives in an analysis, and meaning colonizes momentary paralysis into timeless actions and reactions, both great and small, high and low, within and outside of ourselves. The city expands and we grow. The city extends and we go. The city deforms and we change with it. The urban object is a linear extension of ourselves where we might, at last, arrive. The urban object is a horizontal expansion of ourselves, where we might become aware of the infinite possibilities of this life and the next. The elements of the urban object exponentially multiply, two times two equals four, four times four equals sixteen, sixteen times sixteen… and the equation is translated into an answer, which always spells infinity. The urban object offsets and we are inflected within its new, seemingly discordant note, which nonetheless strikes into an innovative harmony that is, at once, frightening in its beauty and comfortable in its unfamiliarity. In that moment, we by default privilege the centrality of a place over the oppressive beingness discovered, always renewed in the linearity of the thing itself. We draw an edge where none has a right to exist and, in the process, achieve an unknown quality and quantity of placeness, of definitively being here and not there, of arriving and joining (seemingly) irrevocably with our neighbors. As a result, we unintentionally but – with hopeful care – consolidate the core of its being, adding mass to the heart, fiber to the muscle, which propels stronger and gives new life to the city.

However, with arrogant presumption, we detract from it, and weaker still grows that instrument without which we cannot long endure, robbing the object and its populace of strength. We compensate with a superordinate construct born of artificial assumptions and (sometimes) mistaken imaginations. We impose a hierarchy rather than allow for a structure to naturally emerge, synthesized from the harmony found in the song. False hierarchies arise and confound us, mock us, and dare us with impunity to tear them down. The urban object becomes lost in material things of little substance, of subversive meanings, and we become lost in the process. Where is the Hippocrates of our dreams? Where is the Hippodamus of our desires? Misplaced in time, disoriented in space… and significance. The mistaken dichotomy of our subversive dreaming lacks shape, escapes notice until it is too late, and everyday whispers fetching lies in our ears, offering us comfort where none is ever to be found. The city becomes lost and us with it. We are lost. We vanish into our own reflection, gazing upon the empty space opposite of the mirrored face and wonder, what happened? But the answer to this question is so simple, so elemental: we forgot who we were, who we are and who we could be. We are ashamed and it is insufficient. We must demand more of the urban object and ourselves.

On Space is a regular series of philosophical posts from The Outlaw Urbanist. These short articles (usually about 500 words) are in draft form so ideas, suggestions, thoughts and constructive criticism are welcome.

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