Basic Unchangeable Decisions
A Brit, an Australian, and an American walk into a bar. It was after a long day of adventures around Brisbane, Australia. For two of them the sun was in the wrong location in the sky. For one of them the cars were driving on the wrong side of the road. One had to translate m to ft everywhere. One lived comfortably in m. The third struggled with an awkward balance of the two (plus stones). Each looked at the others’ electrical plugs and thought “stupid.” But more or less everyone was using the same language and claimed to be a native speaker.
Loo, Shitter, Toilet, Restroom
Sitting in the car, speeding down the highway to the Australia Zoo, trying to adjust to everything on the road being flipped, my mind of coursed wandered to templates and BIM. This wasn’t too surprising since Rob, Nathan, and I spent a lot of our time talking about templates and BIM. We were all together to speak at ArchiCON. Australia (and the UK’s and Japan’s) roads led me to muse about basic unchangeable decisions. The three of us could all argue about who’s right. How driving on the right or left makes more sense. How the non-hot pepper should be called a bell pepper or a pepper or a Jon’s head or a capsicum. How the room we all use to pee should be called the Loo or the Toilet or the Restroom or the Privy. And how every time I said restroom I was laughed at, and the creeping doubt appeared: Maybe I’m foolish to say restroom. Maybe I’m wrong. After all we are all speaking English. One of us is right, right? And in Australia, I was definitely in the minority for what to call that room we all use. For the most part we knew what each other meant—except sports, shit, I was lost because they were using weird words to talk about weird activities we don’t really do in the USA. But if we all called these things the same (bin lorry instead of garbage truck), there would be a bit more clarity. That’s good, right? I’m not convinced. Removing the colloquial diversity would be sad and sterile. I think it’d make each of our core selves a little less interesting.
But the roads! Wouldn’t it be great to just fix the roads? It’s not hard to argue for which side should win for that. So much of the world already drives on the right. Australia, the UK, Japan, and those other places should just switch. They should adjust and be like everyone else. Right? Same with meters and feet. The USA should just join modern times. We should submit to metric. Goodbye perfect 65 degree weather. Hello…whatever 65 degrees is in Celsius (18, I checked). That won’t ever happen. And it shouldn’t. Imagine the chaos. Imagine the cost. Imagine the unnecessary effort. Think about the mental energy required by
millions of over a billion people to look left then right then left each time rather than right then left then right. And all the other little psychological shifts. I know these changes have happened in the past, but I think we’re pretty much past the point of world unification.
I can claim that our way is better, that Australia and the world would be better off. No more building custom cars for select backwards countries. No more energy reminding foreigners that things are different here. It would streamline industry. It would save some big companies a lot of money. But it will never happen and it’s pointless and not worth the effort. There are so many other things to focus on, so much other work to do. This isn’t a basic decision we need to fight. Other things we do need to combat, but not this one. That 10% of the world’s roads are reversed from the other 90% is a basic unchangeable decision. It is what it is.
I daydream about roads and then think about being a practicing architect. What are the basic unchangeable decisions of BIM? The existence of multiple software programs? Definitely. There is no answer to Revit vs ARCHICAD: what’s the point? It’s just driving on different sides of the road. But we can dig deeper than that. There are ways we use these programs which don’t need to be fought against. There are aspects of templates that we can accept. Understanding what those are are important. Because some things do need to be scrapped, even though the effort may seem insurmountable. Some things are holding us back. Others aren’t. We need to understand the difference. What campaigns to fix Australia have you faced when developing processes and systems for how to work more efficiently with BIM? When have you wisely stopped fighting because it was meaningless to win, or lose?
Self Driving Cars of BIM
There is another way to look at this issue. When will these immutable differences that are pointless to have but impossible to change vanish? Perhaps IFC5 or IFC6 will solve interoperability and we can all become software agnostic—not in our personal choices, but in the ability to work with anyone. Or maybe processor power will increase such that file size, number of faces, and model regeneration will cease to be a problem. Perhaps in a few years we will speak to our computers in plain language and our BIM programs will properly interpret what we mean. I think of these future solutions as the self-driving cars of BIM. When we all stop driving, when AI does it for us, does it matter what side of the road we drive on? No.
Subscribe to my blog to read more about the tricky world of being an Architect in the 21st century: Shoegnome on Facebook, Twitter, and the RSS feed. Look at the marketing of ARCHICAD 19. GRAPHISOFT is using words like automation and predictive. I’m sure all their competitors are thinking about this stuff too. It’s still early days, but amazing things are coming. And fast. ARCHICAD 30 and Revit 2027 will make ARCHICAD 19 and Revit 2016 look like piles of archaic garbage. We will look back at the best in class software of 2015 and it will be comparable to how we currently feel about AutoCAD 2.5 and ARCHICAD 4.55. Focus on what matters, not on the pointless to change and/or the inevitably solved by wild technological advances.