Machine Beauty

Elegance And The Heart Of Technology

By David Gelernter
(Basic Books, Hardcover, 9780465045167, 176pp.)

Publication Date: January 1997

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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Description

When something works well, you can feel it; there is a sense of rightness to it. We call that rightness beauty, and it ought to be the single most important component of design.This recognition is at the heart of David Gelernter’s witty argued essay, Machine Beauty, which defines beauty as an inspired mating of simplicity and power. You can see it in a Bauhaus chair, the Hoover Dam, or an Emerson radio circa 1930. In contrast, too many contemporary technologists run out of ideas and resort to gimmicks and features; they are rarely capable of real, structural ingenuity.Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of computers. You don’t have to look far to see how oblivious most computer technologists are to the idea of beauty. Just look at how ugly your computer cabinet is, how unwieldy and out of sync it feels with the manner and speed with which you process thought.The best designers, however, are obsessed with beauty. Both hardware and software should afford us the greatest opportunity to achieve deep beauty, the kind of beauty that happens when many types of loveliness reinforce one another, when design expresses an underlying technology, a machine logic. Program software ought to be transparent; it should engage what Gelernter calls ”a thought-amplifying feedback loop,” a creative symbiosis with its user. These principles, beautiful in themselves, will set the stage for the next technological revolution, in which the pursuit of elegance will lead to extraordinary innovations.Machine Beauty will delight Gelernter’s growing audience, fans of his provocative and biting journalism. Anyone who manufactures, designs, or uses computers will be galvanized by his cogent arguments and tantalizing glimpse of a bright future, where beautiful technology abounds.

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