Monday, July 19, 2010

Inception: A Great Movie for Architects

I love going to the movies.  My son and I see about 40 a year, so when we see something which is well done, fresh, and entertaining, I tend to notice.

This is not an endorsement of the movie, a cinematic review, or a spoiler.  Rather, I wanted to explore a core plot concept that, as architects, we should be thrilled to see fully developed in a major motion picture.  

It’s easy to get lost in the film’s visual topographical contortions and the resulting points of stress that would surely surpass the bounds of architectural limits.  Watching a city fold on top of itself (this is in the preview) presents an architect with immediate impossibilities that pervert the laws of gravity, physics, and spacial relations.

But it is when DiCaprio’s character, Dom Cobb asks “What is the most resilient parasite?” that all of us should take notice.  Fortunately, he provides us with an answer right away - more so than a virus, a germ, or an insect, ideas are far more resilient.  Once an idea is successfully implanted in our minds, it’s life is all but guaranteed.

If you enjoy the cinema, these data points from four very well-known movies will cause you to recall some really great stories, but also remind you that once an idea is presented, you can’t un-know it:

  • He’s already dead
  • He’s blind
  • His sled is called Rosebud
  • He’s Luke’s father
The first time you viewed these films you were likely caught off guard by these ideas, such that knowing them changes the experience.  You cannot simply un-know them - and you cannot watch the movie again as you did the first time.

As architects it is our mission to develop solutions based on a few simple concepts (loose coupling, cohesion, abstraction, etc), and furthermore to express these solutions in such a way that, like an intellectual parasite, they become obvious, entrenched, and unforgettable.  

Inserting these architectural virus-like concepts into our solutions not only makes our jobs easier, it enables us to deliver on our business needs for faster times to market, greater resiliency, scalability, and flexibility.

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