Mathematics, psychology and sociology, philosophy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Vostè ha estat assimilada

2010 March 1st

Traduir al català

A friend emailed me today with a link to this image of the Eixample of Barcelona and the comment:

How do you say You have been assimilated in Catalan?

The "assimilated" quote is a reference to the fictional Borg, a notably collectivist society of virtually identical aliens that have constructed a cubelike "hive" of many roughly identical rooms and passageways.

I checked into the history of Barcelona's street layout — it turns out the identical city blocks you see in the photo are the result of deliberate planning, in 1859, by urban planner Ildefons Cerdà i Sunyer. In [1] I found:

In Cerdà's project, almost all streets were straight and distributed in a regular geometrical grid with perpendicular intersections (see Figure 1). The city blocks all had the same octagonal shape12. According to Cerdà, this regular distribution was mainly aimed at avoiding privileged building zones.

(Footnote [12] reads: There were about 1,000 blocks, each one size 113.3 m x 113.3 m.)

Figure 1 showed this 1859 map by Cerdà.

In his day Cerdà was accused of being a socialist (the goal of "avoiding privileged building zones" came from this idealism — he was trying to prevent some parts of the city being rich neighborhoods and other parts being poor), and other politicians tried to block his plan but it was adopted and mostly implemented.

In a way, socialism is a real-world expression of the Borg mentality. As perceived by the Star Trek writers, the Borg, socialism and communism all share an "everybody-work-together, everybody-benefits-equally" idealism. And in the United States, identical houses and tract developments are often seen as evidence that individuality and artistic expression have been suppressed.

So my friend's Borg comparison is quite appropriate. The title of this entry was provided by Google Translate.