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Organic Geometries Are Simple Forms Of Complexity

This is an experience all of us who spend time making things without a clear purpose share.

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By Aesh M. Daeva

It's alive! That's what Frankenstein exclaimed as his creation first opened its eyes. A profound (or profane) mix of triumph and surprise.

Just like the good doctor, we are told "no game plan, no game" or "that's stupid, what would you ever use it for?" or my personal favourite "computers are more than powerful enough to do anything a normal person would need already."

Do you catch the common themes? The disbelief, the lack of imagination, the cleaving to the status quo. The ridicule of anything that drives in a different direction. Mary Shelley's classic may be the best literary narrative describing technology development as it often appears to regular people.

Think about all those stories in the 80's about computers taking away jobs, not unlike the potential for a class of "monsters" to replace the field labour. Let's take it up another level. Imagine the perspective of a massive industrial operation based entirely on manual labour hearing a rumour about a man with a machine. A very special machine that can do the job of a hundred strong men. It doesn't eat, it doesn't sleep, and it doesn't require a pay cheque. That's a threat to an entire way of life though the potential value is obvious.

This fear is caused by the purpose this machine seems to have. Replacing people. It is a manifest solution to a clear problem. A problem that others are making a good living solving already in other ways. Think about how British intelligentsia ignored Alan Turing's papers on digital brains until WW2 forced them to consider his ideas as the only viable solution to an unavoidable problem: Enigma.

It takes a machine to fight a machine.

Now consider how Turing wrote those papers long before he had a machine or a war to apply it to. Imagine the consequences had he listened to the other mathematicians of his age and focused on problems "the society" was already working on. Not unlike Frankenstein, Allan Turing was called a monster by the very people who's lives he saved and his untimely death is a lesson in the value of tolerating that which we don't immediately understand.

Just so, I also spend much of my time "creating" little monsters with no clear profit motive. I call this class of programs "Organic Geometry" and I have no idea what they are for. It's pure computer science. Each one is different. A unique combination of "grown" shapes interacting in a digital soup of possibilities. Without purpose I continue to change them and in doing so I refine the characteristics that seem to encourage, if not useful, then certainly interesting reactions.

I write them on different devices and I run them on different devices. Sometimes they are aware of each other and sometimes they are grown in isolation. Every condition matters and changes the results. Different colours, voices, mobility rates, momentum, directional vectors, orbits, orientations, interests, deterrents, life expectancy, collisions, glitches, etc. Yes I said "glitches". They are a rare and desired conditional in this type of work, unlike app development.

This became the first of the primary traits I realized was common to this work. These programs can't be looked at with a "designed" mentality even though they are obviously a product of thoughtful effort. They must be produced absent a specific purpose and then find their own. It is my purpose to give them the means and opportunity to discover and apply effect to/for some cause.

Another key trait is in the ability to add more and more consequential factors or "physics" without having to program specific circumstances or make exceptions for other factors. This organic approach to creating complex geometric shapes that then exist within a causality matrix is real science. It's exploratory and it's thrilling. I do NOT know what it will ultimately produce, but if its only purpose ends up being to keep me busy and engaged in the craft then I say it's very valuable work indeed.

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