Rube Goldberg Nature

The more I learn about it, the more Nature looks like a Rube Goldberg machine: energy and materials flow through convoluted paths to accomplish something seemingly simple. Take the process by which a leaf decomposes. The sheer number of biogeochemical processes involved in the use of that leaf during decomposition is amazing: consumption by fungi … Continue Reading

Networking for Undeveloping Regions

I wrote the short position paper below, with a bit of help from a colleague, for an academic audience, but never published it. Today I was thinking about it and realized that it synthesizes some of my thinking on computing and economic trends. For the last decade there has been an active area of computing … Continue Reading

Principles of Terraforming

A few months back I started exploring the idea of terraforming. In this post I’d like to consider two important questions about it. First, what is terraforming, anyway? And second, why should we do it? Oddly enough, it seems to me that the second question is easier to answer than the first because even with … Continue Reading

Internet vs. Travel

A few months back, I was asked the following question via email: I am trying to find out how much power will be used, both in my home and on the systems computer hubs, if I were to use Skype for and hour and a half to people who live 20 miles away. Is it … Continue Reading

The Wisdom of Deathbed Conversion

In 2005 it seemed that everything had changed. And then in 2007 it happened again. All of a sudden the only thing to expect was the unexpected. I’m talking of course about the weather, and the changes due to radiation entrapment. The climate seemed like it was dying. Out of desperation, many prominent environmentalists converted … Continue Reading

Limiting the Complexity of Complex Systems

It’s widely known that financial system is very complex. Even just the credit system is complex: One question we might ask is “is the global financial system complex?” The answer is obvious: yes. But there’s a different question I’ve been wondering for some time: “how complex is it?” That is, is there a way to … Continue Reading

…And We Thought Nation States Were A Bad Idea

There’s a notion that I’ve been seeing crop up in more places: that our options for the future have narrowed. I’ve been wondering about this for a while—it’s a pretty basic set of questions when I think about it: what were our options in the past, what are our options now, what has changed, and … Continue Reading

What are the Internet’s dependencies?

In my last post, I looked at the Internet’s energy use, broadly construed, and contended that we might offload other societal functions onto the Internet.  In this post I’d like to consider in what ways that might be an unwise approach given the dependencies of the Internet. A couple of months ago, Greer argued that … Continue Reading