Occam’s Razor: the scientific principle that the most simple, elegant solution to a given problem is the one most likely to be true.
N55 takes the notion of assembling the world into a sustainable community with a fair mechanism for exchanging resources and simplifies it to its very barest elements. You will find little elaboration on the N55 site. You will find little philosophical jargon.
But what you will find is astonishing innovation, ingenious trial concepts that simplify and minimize our human needs into manageable, bite-sized alternatives (like HYGIENE SYSTEM and MICRODWELLING). You will also find a series of solutions and protocols for interaction that can be cut and pasted onto just about any society of human beings.
Take ROOMS, for example. The following is excerpted from their “Manual for ROOMS.”
“ROOMS gives access to rooms. Any person can use ROOMS. ROOMS can be established anywhere supplying different functions like rooms for sleeping, making food, reading, meeting, producing things etc.
“ROOMS is a system that can be used for sharing rooms with other persons. ROOMS consists of rooms in different places in the world. The rooms are included in ROOMS by persons who guarantee that anybody can use them according to the function they are initiated with and within given periods of time.
“Any person can expand ROOMS by providing one or more rooms. These rooms can be in existing buildings, they can be mobile rooms, or they can be built for ROOMS. Positions of ROOMS can be found in Manual for ROOMS. The manual is continuously updated. A current version can also be obtained by contacting N55.”
It’s the cleanest, simplest definition possible–as a result, it can be easily adapted and interpreted for the diverse situations and peoples found across the planet.
The People Behind the N55 Movement
N55 describes themselves, in the N55 BOOK (available for download here), as a collaboration of four people working to “rebuild the city from within,” starting with an art exhibition and laboratory space in Copenhagen, Denmark. The core artists of N55 have worked prolifically for nearly 15 years producing “art” that blends practicality, reality and a scientific vision into titillating works that have toured the planet.
Possessed with the driving desire for a more scientifically-based society, they set out to establish both systems and products that would minimize each person’s environmental impact and maximize one’s social potential. N55’s affection for science is apparent in all of their very clean, simple designs (like WALKING HOUSE) and their extremely structured organizational systems (notice the standard arrangement for all of their various MANUALS). They explicitly articulate their firm regard for science in their ideas about politics:
N55 suggests respecting conditions for description: logical relations and facts, as a basis for politics.
Ideologies, religions, subject opinions, social conventions, and habitual conceptions do not necessarily respect conditions for description.
Scientific Sustainability vs. Regressive Sustainability
N55 is among the most successful, outstanding examples that I’ve yet uncovered of the “Science will bring us sustainability” camp. Groups in this category believe that working towards applying our scientific knowledge in innovative ways will assure us a sustainable future for all humankind (and usually, for all life too).
Rhizome Collective, on the other hand, illustrates the opposite camp: one that argues that simplifying our high-tech lifestyles and moving “backwards” into less rushed, less technology-reliant, and yet more fulfilling lifestyles will offer the path to global sustainability. Rhizome Collective does indeed apply biological and chemical sciences in its attempt to sustainably organize human’s resource use, but they wish only to utilize the ecosystems found in nature through a clearer understanding of how they work. Unlike N55, they do not wish to increase human technology or create new products.
Which camp will come out ahead in the race to sustainability? Perhaps the presence of each will stimulate co-evolution and idea exchange? This is possible… but right now, the camps seem fundamentally opposed. One sees industrial development as key to sustainability–and the other sees it as sustainability’s enemy. What are the risks if the group that succeeds in attracting mainstream support has the wrong approach?
These questions remain… but the excitement about–and progress within–sustaianble communities planetwide is mounting. Hopefully, the viability of a sustainable future grows with them.
photo credit: all from the N55 manual websites. N55’s policy on media use is: “all texts and images in N55 BOOK may be copied, reproduced and distributed freely.”
Check out the Sustainable Communities Introduction post!