Life and imperfection

The petals of a flower are not identical. They are similar, but each one is slightly different according to its position and history in the whole. When parts repeat we never have identical repetition. Instead we have repeated parts as centers which are changing and variable according to their position in the whole, as they repeat within the whole.

In nature, this follows directly from the fact that parts are induced by the whole and created by the whole. The whole is not created out of them. The flower is not made from petals. The petals are made from their role and position in the flower.

At first it sounds like to create something with life in it is to embrace imperfection. It sounds like what gives something life are the little differences introduced by imperfect replication, little “mistakes” we make when striving for a geometrically perfect replica but aren’t able to reach it — like a machine would. A perfectly replicated copy, perhaps done by a highly-precise machine, is missing that life.

But this is not about imperfection. The differences are consequences of having gone through a generative process. Each “copy” has been generated. And during the process of generation, it has been precisely adapted to the specific needs of its position.

What Alexander describes sounds more like balance to me. It is not that we cannot perfectly replicate an element but that each individual element is perfectly adjusted to its position, which requires it to be slightly different, which gives it life.

From that perspective it becomes obvious, that exact replicas can never be perfectly adapted to their environment.

This is true as long as we consider physical space as the environment. But what about virtual space? It seems if it is possible that multiple environments can be identical, than that is likely possible in virtual environments.

-> Roughness is the key to understand this better and get away from the misinterpretation that it is about imperfection.

#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/3 Wholeness and the theory of centers#

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