ChristopherAlexander in TheTimelessWayOfBuilding introduces the notion of PatternLanguage like this. Having asseted that buildings and towns are themselves to be thought of as composed simply of PatternsAllTheWayDown, he then suggests that the way to produce buildings and towns is not to see them as designed in one piece but as grown through an organic process. This is necessary because no design could contain sufficient information to specify the whole. Instead we start with a seed and grow the whole from it.

The growth process is also necessary because all the parts of the system are going to need some local autonomy to adapt to local conditions. Because part of the pattern-view of systems is that a few patterns are repeated many times but with slight variations each time. It's the variation which accounts for being appropriate to context.

However if the parts are to have autonomy to choose their own adaptions, Alexander worries that this could be anarchy without something to constrain them into adapting and influencing each other in such a way as to produce balanced, co-operative, patterns which work together.

His solution is that like bodies which grow with a core set of co-operative principles enshrined in DNA, the system must grow with a guiding DNA. The PatternLanguage is the equivalent to this inner DNA.


This way of thinking of pattern-languages as generative DNA is very close to the idea of an LSystem.

I'm thinking how this translates into a political domain.

The problem with my DecentralizedLeft is that all the different groups may be spontaneously trying different experiments. But there's no guarantee that these experiments are compatible or that the groups aren't entering into conflict with each other. In fact, factionalism and inter-factional conflict are hallmarks of the left.

So what could be done to co-ordinate a group of independant, radical experiments?

  • One answer - seek centralized control - is clearly wrong.

: Maybe another reason that centralized control often appeals to the left : It's the only thing that they can think of to solve the co-ordination problem and bang heads together.

: Clearly this is a bad solution. Partly because central control rarely works. And worse than even that, it side-tracks the factions into fighting for influence with, control of, the central authority.

  • The other known answer, the market. Is pretty much what I define the left as being against. But it's clear how this works. And why it's the great strength of the right that they have a working solution to the co-ordination problem. The market co-ordinates. And money is the medium through which communication flows.
  • So if, by definition, the left can't rely solely on the market. But the decentralized left want to avoid the problems caused by central authority, we need a third way of co-ordinating. Alexander reminds us of one possibility. A shared language which defines how to grow. Another way of putting this : a shared ethos which lets various groups understand what they have in common at the very bottom, and helps them to co-ordinate.

: Of course, this is another dangerously untenable dream. Because it leads to ThePersonalIsThePolitical. To the feeling that everyone needs to solve their own internal, psychopolitical problems before tackling the world. And it waits for everyone to solve these before


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