Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mechanism & Organism

I'm reading The Phenomenon of Life, the first book in Christopher Alexander's The Nature of Order series. He argues that we need to change our predominantly mechanistic world view to something much more subtle and organic, more able to nurture and sustain life. I find I agree with him, and in fact am pleased to see this already happening in many ways, with folksonomies, new urbanism, micro customization of products and services, etc.

One could see this movement toward more organic structures as regressive, rejecting the advances of the 20th century. In fact it is quite the opposite, an enriching and deepening of those advances. In reaching today's high level of technical achievement we have set certain things aside. Now that we're here, it's time to reintegrate them. It's telling that the computer, in many ways the ultimate expression of mechanistic thought, is the engine fueling much of the new organic way of life.

Of course, the mechanistic way of thinking is well entrenched, and many people have a vested interest in keeping it that way. An organic world view, for instance, puts much more emphasis on bottom-up, decentralized systems, something not very attractive to those at the top of our current hierarchies. This negative reaction, of course, comes from fear. To help the change along, we must be compassionate to those gripped by the fear, and help them move beyond it.

Will it happen overnight? Not at all. . . Just as organic structures themselves take time to evolve, so will our new organic world view. You and I can help it happen, though, little by little.

Friday, October 07, 2005


I've really become taken with the idea of micropatronage. I believe it's an essential piece of the Internet puzzle, but there is much to be done to make it really fly. So far, it's been a movement without a home. For this reason, I've started as a rallying point. Please come visit, contribute content, and spread the word!