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William McDonough at The Building Centre | Multi Discipline


Hello, Jane Thornback from “Construction Products
Association” but I did do an ecology degree in California in the seventies. You’re very able to move between understanding
of systems between, agricultural systems, living systems, building systems, atmospheric
systems. I don’t know if this question makes sense,
I just wondered if they explosion of information today and maybe the need for people to specialize
makes them less able to look at the world in a systems way across all of these different
things or whether you think it enhances them to think in that way? That’s a good question. That reminds me … Let me remember your question
but before I get there let me tell a story – it’s my favorite story. Early seventies Gregory Bateson, Margaret
Mead’s husband wrote a book called “Mind and Nature”. He was studying the idea of cybernetics that
Norbert Wiener brought up at MIT and this is while we’re still punching holes in cardboard
called IBM computer. This is long before the PC, this is early
days. He’s in the book and he’s telling his daughter
a story and he’s in the future and he’s sitting in front of a computer and he’s saying “so
tell me computer when do you think computers will begin to think like humans?” Then there’s a long pause and the computer
goes “Hmm that reminds me of a story”. So… that reminds me of a story. When I became Dean at University of Virginia,
I’m sitting in front of the faculty and the students. I had 650 students and 60 faculty, so it’s
like this and I’m the Dean. I’m not coming from academia, I’m private
practice in New York and I did some teaching at Yale and Harvard but here I am the Dean
all of a sudden. Out of nowhere tenured full professor – the
Dean. So one of the professors goes “Here’s my question,
you’re obviously an inter-disciplinarian. You could never be tenured if you came up
from academia because you wouldn’t be peer reviewable.” Interesting and that’s why was excited about
“Nature” publishing my article because they said we’re not going to peer review this. It’s a new language, like all my scientists
are freaking out like “we’re all trying to get into “Nature” and like you just write
this thing and like publish it instantly”. Yeah, It was like ‘pffftttt’. I remember they said you’re expecting us all
to learn everything. These students here, they don’t know where
to put the toilet on the plan and they can’t draw and you’re going to talk about zoology
or something. So what do you expect these students to do? I said well that’s really a great question
because the question is now not that we have to become inter-disciplinarian per say, I
think we have to become multi-disciplinarians. I think we worker in bigger teams now, we
always work in teams. You have to know that you need a zoologist,
that’s what you have to know. That you’re going to need all this, that you
don’t have to know it. You see I’m like a total amateur all the time,
I’m just like a child. I just think is this pretty, is this beautiful,
does it make me happy, can I sing a song to my kids about it, you know I’m okay. I don’t know … I get license to practice
so … That’s why we call this ‘practice’. ‘The practice of architecture’. It’s like when everybody says “well that’s
not very professional” … I know, I know… That’s we call it a ‘practice’. So we do, we practice. So I think that’s what we can do now, we can
see the whole systems, we can see them better and we can see the connections and we can
get access to so much information so fast. Watching the AI … Has anybody worked with
AI yet directly? If you have that kind of power of computing
it’ll blow your mind. I went to meet with an AI company because
I wanted to see what this all means to us. I went to a company and I got there because
I’m good friends with some people who could get me in the door. I get there and these business people are
sitting there, we’re in San Francisco. They are the most dramatic AI company according
to the head of Google Elon Musk, which is a good reference. So I go in and they go okay, we’re talking
to you only because you’ve got a good reference so what do you want to know? I say, well, how’s business? They go well, we don’t really do business
anymore. I said you’re out of business? Yeah, well we don’t have any more customers. Really? Yeah customers are a real pain. The AI can write itself … here it comes. If you think about the history of this, the
manufacturing … The term manufacturing, if you look at the etymology it means execute
by hand, so the the first manufacturing is weaving, making bricks, laying bricks – manufacturing. Then knotting, weaving – hands. Then we have Manchester and its looms and
we call it what? Manufacturing! Really, we probably should have called it
‘machine-facturing’. That moves us to the next scale, then we moved
to robot-facturing gravity 3D it’s quite amazing. I do giant factories … I just saw a factory
in South Carolina, 60,000 square feet. Textiles, two people. Robots, two people – amazing. Now we’re worried about the machine learning,
so now we’ve got machines teaching machines how to do stuff. What are they teaching them, what are they
talking about, what’s the plan here. I think it’s time to come back to the hand
and understand what we do, what we make and articulate very carefully what it is want
from this.

Reynold King

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