Stanford, 1 February 2012
c/o Stanford University
Chaired by Piero Scaruffi
The LASERs are a national program of evening gatherings that bring artists and scientists together for informal presentations and conversation with an audience. See the program for the whole series.
Leonardo ISAST and Stanford Continuing Studies invite you to a meeting of the Leonardo Art/Science community. See below for location and agenda.
Like previous evenings, the agenda includes some presentations of art/science projects, news from the audience, and time for casual socializing/networking.
When: 1 February 2012
Where: Stanford University
City of the Future. Imagine urban life in one hundred years. Over ten billion people worldwide will be straining for limited resources of water, land, and food. More than 80 percent of the world's population will be living in dense urban centers, and one of the main issues that will have to be solved is how they will be fed. Today's agricultural model has no answer, with 80 percent of land suitable for raising crops already in use. At worst, as resources become increasingly scarce, the tense edge between city and farm could become a battle line. In 2008, we were given one week to conceive a new balance of urbanism, technology, and ecology in the City of the Future competition sponsored by the History Channel, IBM, and Infiniti, with the American Institute of Architects and American Society of Civil Engineers as partners. We advanced a future vision of San Francisco as a model sustainable city, with agriculture woven directly into its urban framework. Drawing on the research of Dickson Despommier, a professor of environmental health sciences and microbiology at Columbia University who developed the Vertical Farm Project, we deployed vertical agricultural systems, fed by reclaimed water and powered through renewable energy technologies, throughout the Bay Area region. By re-appropriating existing structures and developing new agricultural centers along key nodes of the regional transportation network, this model cultivates an urban environment that is directly linked to its food supply and is agriculturally self-sufficient. Food can be produced and distributed with high efficiency, and gone are the costly environmental effects of the outmoded industrial agricultural model. A new base of industry, producing a safe, varied food supply, takes its place in an increasingly dense, stratified city. This projection is not an idle exercise. Forces of climate change, high energy cost, globalization, and urbanization are all converging to press for better systems of food production, distribution, and consumption. As global food demand and prices are rising, new areas of hunger are steadily emerging in developing countries, and even middle-class city dwellers are being priced out of the food market. Solutions must come from architects with a social conscience. Committed to food equity and universal public health, they can lead a new type of civitas through urban vision and renewal. Some facts and figures follow. As of 2008, 80 percent of the land suitable for raising crops was already in use. By 2051, 80 percent of the world's population will reside in urban centers, pushing urban edges further out into neighboring agricultural land. By 2108, there will be ten billion people in the world. Where will we find the farmland we need? How will we feed ourselves? Food prices are estimated to increase by 35 percent in coming years. Income growth, climate change, high energy prices, globalization, and urbanization are all converging to transform how food is produced, marketed, and consumed. Global food demand and prices are rising, threatening the livelihoods and nutrition of poor people in all countries. A "new area of hunger" is emerging in developing countries; even middle-class urbanites are being priced out of the food market due to rising costs. Agriculture uses 70 percent of the world's available freshwater for irrigation, rendering it unusable for drinking as a result of contamination with fer tilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and silt. Forty percent of the world's food production occurs on irrigated land. Americans import $52.5 billion worth of agricultural products each year. Food in the United States travels an average of 1,726 miles from farm to market. All-season farming multiplies the productivity of the farmed surface by a factor of four to six, depending on the crop. A thir ty-story building with a base of a building block (five acres) could produce yields analogous to that of a traditional 2,400- acre farm if year-round and special genetic "dwarf " crops are used. Ver tical farming could eventually replace traditional farmlands, thus restoring them to their natural state and preventing fur ther deser tification, deforestation, and invasion of natural biomes. Farms are a leading cause of animal habitat loss and extinctions, particularly in developing countries. Each acre in a ver tical farm could allow between ten and twenty acres of traditional farmland to return to its natural state.
Mycotecture. In this presentation Phil Ross will describe his research on growing a building out of living fungus. "Mycotecture" (2009) was grown from the fungus Ganoderma lucidum (also known as Reishi or Ling-chi) at the Far West Fungi mushroom farm in Monterey, and exhibited at the Kunsthalle Dsseldorf as part of the Eat Art exhibit. The current goal is to create a space that can shelter 12-20 people at a time. Experiments to determine the fungi's material qualities as well as figuring out how to propagate more complex forms are under way. For example, mushrooms digest cellulose and transform it into chitin, the same material that insect shells are made from. The bricks have the feel of a composite material with a core of spongy cross grained pulp that becomes progressively denser towards its outer skin. The skin itself is incredibly hard, shatter resistant, and can handle enormous amounts of compression. Shaping and cutting the bricks destroyed our files, rasps and saws.
Collaborative Intelligence. The 2012 Centenary of Alan Turing inspires us to think about futures of intelligence. Collective intelligence identifies similarities in aggregates to improve prediction, whereas collaborative intelligence identifies disparities among agents to spur innovation. As in nature, each individual organism plays a unique role in its ecosystem. Crowdsourcing platforms are poised for a breakthrough - capacity to evolve, through use, toward Ecosystem Utility that exploits synergies across computer data processing and human pattern recognition. Collaborative intelligence characterizes distributed, multi-agent networks where each unique agent is an autonomous contributor to its collaborative problem-solving ecosystem.
First Light. Recently, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field imaging system unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind that reveals the first light from 13.5 billion years ago. The exposure lasted for eleven and a half days and is as far back as any human eye has seen to the origins of the universe. The transmission of this information involved unencrypting and compositing it using a Near Infrared Camera and a Multi object Spectrometer to gauge the distance, and corresponding color information. This instrumental mediation resulted in both a map, and an interpolation of light waves from 13.5 billion years ago into their corresponding spectrum of color with red representing the furthest light, and blue representing the closest light.
In mirroring the working methodology of the Hubble image, the resulting images have been deconstructed using a CMYK screen printing process resulting in five prints, one for each of the color channels, and one for the composited image. This process departs from the original images intent and information by seeking to access what is hidden within the information and not within the resulting image. The images become reciprocal dialogues revealing multiple truths both in their form and in the mechanics of their production. Much like scans of an MRI, the images reveal privileged views of cross sections within each layer, but also guard against us ever seeing the whole picture.
As a guide to the processes being utilized, a color balance calibration target was also produced that corresponds to the density, saturation, and intensity of color from the original Hubble image that has broken the colors down into their most pure form. The target can then be placed in the frame of any image and balanced to the colors of the first light from the universe, thereby ultimately mimicking the first light of the universe into personal images.