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Plastic Grids

Redesigning the Geometries that underlie Epistemologies


To visualise what our planet looks like, most people will first have in mind this non-neutral format. The use of mathematical and geometrical tools seems quite neutral, but in the end, the production of information is governed by economical choices regarding their readability and accuracy.

The material resources of a territory depend on the size of the area. Thus the coastline is an important part of its identity. But its calculation is exponentially proportional to the measurement unit, which leads to unrelated results for different choices of unit. A coastline has a fractal property of disclosing more and more length as we look closer.

Already in our language the use of expressionslike“xsquared”, “xcubed” or “square meter” and “cube meter” influences the shape of our thoughts. But triangles, for example, provide a more efficient form, since it takes only half of a square space. A triangular grid could contain more element than a square one. In Nature, where the most economical choices are always made, triangulation exists over squarization.

More recently, artificial intelligence grew to a pace that is already re- shaping our society. Machine learning is engineered from inspirations on human intelligence, and his brain’s behavior. Intelligence is defined as the ability to class, categorize, discriminate; and it is exactly what happens physically with our neurons. As a baby’s brain develops, there is an explosion of synapses –the connections that allow neurons to send and receive signals- but then until adolescence, the brain start pruning those synapses, limiting their number so different brain areas can develop specific functions without being overloaded.

The main difference with artificial intelligence is that a neural network is potentially unlimited. For animals like us, our biological body restrains our growth. An oversupply of synapse in a human’s brain causes autisms.

Bigger entities have greater division of labor than smaller ones. Larger multicellular organisms have a corresponding increase in the number of their cell types. The multicellular form of life takes shape by following a sophisticated endlessly iterated program of development: a single microscopic cells diving again and again and again. As each cell taking its place in the emerging expandingtissues, it develops a more complex internal structure. Bacteria in different parts of its mass may also develop more specialised functions. The rule is examined in some details from very small organisms to large animals, plants and societies.

Education is also discretized and classified to offer a system for anyone to follow. But as it leads to roles in societies that have impact on broader sectors than their own, the entanglement of the discipline’s interests should be more important to comprehend.

In the end it is table of ten categories, or twenty-five sub-categories, or seventy- seven sub-sub-categories, depending the chosen resolution. It is a vertical grid, very similar to a linear algorithm –from left to right-, drew by a group of experts from UNESCO Institute for Statistic. The Expert Group of International Statistical Classification proposed this very specific discretisation of the fields, withthree different resolution of reading. For the sake of readability, the table takes a very standardised appearance, which may take it away from the essence of human cognition.

Let’s imagine an alternative model for the categorisation of the fields of knowledge. Inspired by artificial intelligence, biological neuronal network or multicellular biofilms, a diversiform visualisation of the education structure can enhance the discussion about the agency of everything that is not framed inside a category but exists in between.