Natural Genetic Infrastructure

Chris Alexander closes his 1996 OOPSLA keynote with an unexpected call to action: apply programming's power to the generation of a living world. transcript

It is conceivable to imagine a future in which this problem of generating the living structure in the world is something that you – computer scientists – might explicitly recognize as part of your responsibility.

The call comes in part C, after his own past and present work in parts A and B. The transcribed words we've quoted begin just under one hour into his presentation.

YOUTUBE 98LdFA-_zfA Christopher Alexander addressing the 1996 OOPSLA conference, San José, California.

Chris goes on to explain that those of us who wield the power to transform the world have accepted the role of technicians, hired guns, serving other interests.

What I am proposing here is something a little bit different from that. It is a view of programming as the natural genetic infrastructure of a living world which you/we are capable of creating, managing, making available, and which could then have the result that a living structure in our towns, houses, work places, cities, becomes an attainable thing. That would be remarkable. It would turn the world around, and make living structure the norm once again, throughout society, and make the world worth living in again.

This is an extraordinary vision of the future, in which computers play a fundamental role in making the world -- and above all the built structure of the world -- alive, humane, ecologically profound, and with a deep living structure. I realize that you may be surprised by my conclusion. This is not what I am, technically, supposed to have been talking about to you. Or you may say, Well, great idea, but we're not interested. I hope that is not your reaction. I hope that all of you, as members of a great profession of the future, will decide to help me, and to help yourselves, by taking part in this enormous world-wide effort. I do think you are capable of it. And I do not think any other professional body has quite the ability, or the natural opportunity for influence, to do this job as it must be done.

After this close, amidst the polite applause, one hears an attendee gasp, "oh wow".