I recently finished reading a few interviews with Ai Weiwei in which he spoke at length about his artistic process as well as many parts of his life's story. The book "Ai Weiwei speaks with Hans Ulrich Obrist" is a fascinating look inside the mind of the polarizing Chinese artist. There were a few comments that I thought were great but one really stuck out to me. The two were talking about a particularly large architecture project he was curating and how many architects were actually involved in the process and Weiwei stated "Architecture is a production of our reailty". This comment really got me thinking and kept circling around in my mind and I began wondering if it could be applied to other types of architecture as well, especially in the digital realm. If physical architecture is a manifestation of who we are and where we live in the real world then digital architecture is an abstract and digital example of who we are, how we look at ourselves, and how we identify with this day and age in the digital form. It is our current evidence that we are alive.
For better or for worse, software is our mirror. It is how we are currently addressing society and, in turn, we are seeing how society is reacting to it. I find this beautiful and frightening all at the same time. It is beautiful since we build software to use as tools to push our society forward. It has helped us collect, understand, and interpret the data we are building all around us in an effort to make our lives easier. And our lives are much easier than they were even 10 years ago. This is still truly astounding to me.
But what sometimes frightens me about it is the amount of control we have given to it and how much it consumes our daily lives. It's almost impossible to go a day without interacting with some form of software. One perfect example is our phones. Smart phones are now nothing more than an extension of our bodies. How many times have you left the house without your phone and suddenly feel as though you are missing a part of yourself? I am sure there are many people who do feel that way if that happens. For me, I started leaving it home on purpose and I honestly feel a bit of relief. But that is just me.
I do believe that software should be an extension of our own minds and help us fill in the blanks when answers are needed faster than we can come up with them. Therefore I see it as a great tool to be used carefully. It should help us extend our talents and push our strengths. Software is truly beautiful because it can do that. But there is a fear that we are letting it take over too much of our lives. While I agree that software is eating the world, and that is a snowball that will most likely never be stopped (nor should it be), we do need to take a step back and understand when we should push back to keep it from eating us.