Alex's notes

Garden of computation

We often confuse the nature of computation with the architecture of computers. This distinction is easy to miss, because you must explore the nature of computation through the instrument of the computer. But the distinction could not be more profound. Although a computer is decidedly unnatural, the computer provides a window through which you can see the natural world.

I define “architecture of computers” in a broad sense to encompass all those human constructed artifacts we associate with computers: CPUs, GPUs, motherboards, keyboards, phones, windows, tabs, buttons, apps, icons, and so on. I call it “architecture” because these human design decisions construct a space that you inhabit. Your iPhone home screen with its city grid of icons provides a strict order to the virtual space.

The nature of computation has very little to do with the human architecture of computers. Computation is a fundamental ingredient of the universe, just like atoms, quarks, electricity, the sun and moon. Humans did not create computation, we discovered it — and there is ample evidence in nature of computational processes. In fact, rather than simply being an occasional feature of natural processes, natural processes can be understood as being computational at their very core.

Our art practice consists of collecting, curating and growing algorithmic specimens. We are gardeners of computation, and we consider this to be a garden in the literal sense. The algorithmic phenomena you observe in our collection live and breathe in a space that is continuous with biological phenomena.

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