Assigning colours to the notes in a musical octave
“Light is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum, higher in frequency than radio waves, but below X-rays. Wavelengths we can see are between approximately 380nm and 780nm. Curiously, the spectrum of visible light, between ultraviolet and infrared, is almost exactly an octave, with the visible edge of ultraviolet having double the frequency (and half the wavelength) of the visible edge of infrared. … “
I believe that the social ideas of anarchism: autonomous groups, spontaneous order, workers’ control, the federative principle, add up to a coherent theory of social organisation which is a valid and realistic alternative to the authoritarian, hierarchical and institutional social philosophy which we see in application all around us. Man will be compelled, Kropotkin declared, “to find new forms of organisation for the social functions which the State fulfils through the bureaucracy” and he insisted that ”as long as this is not done nothing will be done.” I think we have discovered what these new forms of organisation should be. We have now to make the opportunities for putting them into practice.
One of the remarkable insights of computer scientists and social scientists and natural scientists in the computer age is an understanding of how great complexity and diversity can be generated by populations of simple agents following simple rules. Just as schools of fish and flocks of starlings create sweeping artistic displays by pursuing simple individual rules, so the rich tapestry of city life emerges from simple everyday interactions. The ideas of network theorists lend themselves to talk of self-organization, non-hierarchical structures, and informational cascades. Computer scientists take ideas such as the “Game of Life”, the stunning images of fractal shapes, and the rich behaviour of networks to illustrate how complexity arises from simplicity. From spin-glasses in magnets to the sorting and emergence of patterns revealed by Schelling and his intellectual descendants, simple “micromotives” give rise to surprising and intricate patterns of “macrobehaviour”. Such agent-based thinking seems at first to mesh perfectly with Jacobs’s closely observed studies of city life. She famously focused her piercing, analytical eye on the details of every day life in large cities, and used her observations to challenge and then triumph over the grand visions and arrogance of top-down city planners. It’s the bottom-up nature of her approach that inspires: the planners are trying to impose patterns on populations from above but they miss the relationship between the large and the small. It is tempting, then, to take the descriptions of Jacobs’s cities and encode them in algorithms: agent-based simulations of the effects of block size on pedestrian traffic patterns seem almost mandated, so obvious a next step do they seem from Jacobs’s chapter on the topic.