productor, bakery: a (more or less material itself) machine for creating material objects from atom-level plans. A critical component of the post-modernity transition, compilers obsoleted mass manufacturing with its inevitable spam — and with much of what was global economy: the “postpostindustrial revolution” buried the corporation-based economic order, taking down whole floors of the social order with it. ■    Once capable of self-reproduction, compilers “softwarized materiality,” shifted valuation — perception of whats worth paying for — from products to their designs; manufacture was now simply a matter of time (compiling is fundamentally slow). A for-profit industry of copy-protected plans flourished at first but ended up losing to an open source model (better suited anyway to the asystemically additive materiality than to multiplicative software where it was conceived); evolved by generations of volunteers, best public-domain designs universalized to subsume most human needs. (Unification had been under way ever since the manufacturing era: differently styled and branded products often relied on the same internal “platforms” — open or at least reverse-engineerable so a device could be hacked regardless of the nameplate.) During sparsening, compilers' atom-perfect, wear-resistant layerings ushered the “reliability revolution”: the build quality of everyday things rebounded as their diversity plummeted (usually just one customizable concept — “why use anything but the best design?” — per each broadly defined need).  ■    Early productors were much abused, their pattern poisoning rash hard to clean up at the time; as Change progressed, however, compilers' use stabilized and began to decline. With humans' gains in Crusoe self-sufficiency, it is infrequent that a utilitarian object needs to be respawned, let alone designed from scratch; aside from ad-hoc arf sculptings and airbrush sketches, everyday needs are served by old but continuously self-restoring implements — simple, fluid, morphed by use (approaching “final fashion-proof forms” — “almost Platonic ideas”), amodally universal yet idiosyncratically personal. Still compiled and recycled in quantity are toys, art, science (categories increasingly hard to distinguish); after the end of “global trade,” art is by far the largest class of things that change hands and travel across society in material form. Having lost its lifetime owner, an object normally dissolves — but some end up mineralized, frozen, rethinged into museum artifacts.  ■    Whether our materiosphere has become less complex is arguable but the asystemity trend is not: a classic example is getting rid of systemic self-repair in favor of smart shaping and composition so a tool upkeeps itself just by being used. New developments threaten, foreseeably, to make compiler as a systemic contraption extinct: a class of designs can self-compile from a minuscule material seed or ovum (so simple and so permissively defined, it can be filtered out from inorganic dust) and a stream of information — literally “a handwave and an incantation.” A related idea is macrocompilers: just as a regular nanoscale compiler doesnt actually grab and pull atoms but creates conditions for them to crystallize out of thin air, a macrocompiler forms attraction seats for larger chunks of matter; it rides atop natural processes, imperceptibly bends probabilities, performs strictly minimal actions — and “a castle builds itself” out of whats available, quietly and unobtrusively, where envisioned by the architect (such as in the middle of the woods). Feasible in theory, macrocompilers may well prove impractical (likely by being much slower than the already slow regular compilers) — but theres undeniable ethical appeal in their near-ultimate adverbiality (compare Nature Minds).

< collective  |  complexity >

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License