Jon Gold

2 minute read · April 18, 2016

A Single Craft

In The Media Lab: Inventing The Future at MIT, Stewart Brand talks about Nicholas Negroponte’s vision for the founding of the Lab:

all communication technologies are suffering a joint metamorphosis, which can only be understood properly if treated as a single subject, and only advanced properly if treated as a single craft. The way to figure out what needs to be done is through exploring the human sensory and cognitive system and the ways that humans most naturally interact. Join this and you grasp the future.

There are clear parallels between this and my own subset of interests in the world of design, technology, human-computer interaction & artificial intelligence.

He goes on:

Negroponte and former MIT President Jerome Wiesner toured and lectured and demoed and bargained for seven years, and raised the requisite millions. High aluminum walls, countless computers, attractive salaries were generated out of tense, soaring proposal words:-“…New theories about signals, symbols, and systems will evolve from the merger of engineering, social science, and the arts.…” “…the intellectual mix of two rapidly evolving and very different fields; information technologies and the human sciences.…” “…a place where people will be expected to be equally familiar with lumens, leading, and lambda calculus. Graduates will be required to pursue studies in epistemology, experimental psychology, filmmaking, holography, and signal processing, as well as in computer science.”

If that sounds familiar, here’s Walter Gropius some 65 years prior on the foundation of the Bauhaus:

The Bauhaus strives to combine all the arts—sculpture, painting, applied and visual art—as inseparable components of a new architecture

It’s a quote that I’ve used several times in conference talks; I love the sentiment and when I discovered that quote it was great to discover it from the mouth of one of my design heroes. Similarly I’m electrified by Negroponte’s remarks: whilst the words are still (slightly) older than me, I feel even more affinity to the work and ethos of Media Lab than the Bauhaus.

Whilst waving around in the dark trying to find a path, it’s comforting to know that there is precedent.

A Single Craft.


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Jon Gold

Jon Gold is a designer–engineer–researcher–musician making AI-augmented creative tooling at Airbnb & building weird things for that thing in the desert.