Struc­tural­ly then, the Amer­i­can cloud is an assem­blage of inter­con­nect­ed Hamil­ton­ian cathe­drals, art­ful­ly con­cealed behind a Jef­fer­son­ian bazaar. The spa­tial struc­ture of this Amer­i­can edi­fice is sur­pris­ing­ly sim­ple: a bicoastal sur­face that is most­ly human-hab­it­able bazaar, and a heart­land that is most­ly high­ly auto­mat­ed infra­struc­ture cathe­drals. In this world, the bazaars are the inte­ri­ors of cities, form­ing a user-inter­face lay­er over the com­plex tan­gle of pipes, cables, dump­sters and load­ing docks that engi­neers call the last mile — the part that actu­al­ly reach­es the cus­tomer. The cities them­selves are cathe­drals craft­ed for human habi­ta­tion out of steel and con­crete. The bazaar is mere­ly a thin fic­tion lin­ing it. Between the two worlds there is a veil of man­u­fac­tured nor­mal­cy — a stu­dious­ly main­tained aura of the small-town Jef­fer­son­ian ideal.

America’s arti­fi­cial heart­land– Venkatesh Rao – Aeon

For some rea­son this time around I was less enter­tained by Rao’s choice of metaphors. Per­haps because this is yet anoth­er dichoto­my, and because as opposed to pre­vi­ous attempts at illu­mi­nat­ing today’s world, I didn’t learn much new from them. I could not think with these metaphors as tools.

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.