Gardens as Technology
This being Father's Day and my children being on a mini-vacation at their Grandparents' cabin, I got to choose today's activities for myself and Mrs King. And on something of a whim I suggested that we go visit the Chicago Botanic Garden. Wikipedia describes it a 385-acre "living plant museum" and while I agree with the living plant bit it didn't feel much like a museum to me. I was, however, delighted by my choice. The Garden was really quite breathtaking in the scope of its undertaking as well as in its beauty. The entire 385 acres has been meticulously designed and crafted and continues to be lovingly maintained and improved by a professional staff that is supported by over 1,000 volunteers.
To go to the Garden is to experience a surprisingly strong and coherent design aesthetic, where order and symmetry reign over chaos. Or, you might say, over nature. I guess that's the point of a garden, a forced separation of nature from itself, a place where nature is at the same time honoured and rejected. I hadn't thought about it in these terms before today, but a garden fits perfectly with Brian Arthur's definition of a technology. A garden "captures" the phenomenon of plant life. Of course a field also captures plant life, but does so to fulfill a need we have, the need to eat. I had thought that we were going to see the plants. But it turns out that we weren't really. We were there to satisfy another need we have, the need to believe that we're different and better and more powerful than them (however misguided that belief might be). And the garden, in a way that does turn out to be similar to a museum after all, is the technology we use to do that.