Re: RFI: Acropolis City/State Concept

Bryan Moss (
Wed, 16 Sep 1998 20:07:29 +0100

Anders Sandberg wrote:

> > > Arcology is a termed coined by Italian
> > > architect Paolo Soleri in 1959 to describe
> > > the concept of Architecture and Ecology
> > > working as an integral system.
> >
> > Is it me or is Mr. Soleri a certified "nut"?
> Who is accredited to certify nuts? And are nuts
> ISO 14000 compliant? :-)

Actually, we don't certify, we recruit.

> Soleri's writings strike me as rather typical of
> architects: lots of vague, artsy neologisms,
> with some quite realistic ideas mixed in with
> social speculations. Hardly enough to put him in
> the nut category.

The concept of Arcology fits well with my current pet theory of intelligence. My current theory being that the majority of "intelligent" features happen *between* brains rather than in them. In this sense, Soleri's social "organisms" would be the perfect way to create a more advanced society. Certainly the idea that crowding can be a good thing appeals to me, if only for the irony.

> One might disagree with his ideas, but they are
> not entirely out of the window.

The problem is they create the BIG RED LIGHT of pseudo-scientific nonsense. If he presented the same ideas in terms of science and engineering I'd be more comfortable reading them.

> I have the impression that Soleri is 1) very
> interested in creating working, sustainable
> communities, and this is of course related to
> religion in the sense of community-building.

I have since read a large majority of the material available on his web site and I think you're correct. He takes great pains to describe what he means by "religion" and "spiritual" which is more than can be said for most. He uses the term "spirit" to talk about a connection with the past. For instance, the sun has a spiritual value (it's common to say "energy" but I refuse) because it was (and is) the "life-giver". I'm not sure, but I have a feeling that this is the correct use of the word and the modern use (which refers to all sorts of nonsense) is flat wrong. (You can easily see where "spirit" as connection to the past could have become "spirit" as ghost.) If, for example, I made a crude joke about the holocaust it's likely I would be flamed. That is a connection to the past. The crucifix has spiritual value because of its (apparent) connection to the suffering of Jesus, and so on. I have no idea what this means, but clearly the majority of us could be said, in this sense, to have "spiritual" connections. (Hands up those people who wouldn't mourn the loss of a close friend or relative.)

This could be interesting on a cognitive level. We seem to be able to create strong attachments to the past, but for what reason? Emotion is normally associated with reflex action, yet we become emotionally "tied" to the past. It would be easy to say the emotional attachment to memories aids recollection, but emotions can be so strong as to be disabling. I have a feeling something more interesting is happening here, but I'm not sure what. (Perhaps reason and emotion are not quite as separate as some believe, and *not* having an emotional attachment to the past is

> He seems to quite happily borrow useful ideas
> from religion, such as how to make austerity
> into something positive.

Useful ideas can often come from strange places, but when I hear "religion" or "spiritual" I have a tendency to switch-off.

> 2) he is in some sense a follower of Teilhard de
> Chardin (and maybe Tipler, even if I don't know
> if he have read him) in the sense that he thinks
> life will evolve to higher stages, and that
> space colonization is something ethically good
> and necessary. I would put him on the mystical
> side of transhumanism; not quite a
> transhumanist, but with several points in
> common.

I'll retract the "nut" status. Eccentric, perhaps.