Computing in the Long Emergency, part 2

I recently learned about a (so-called) international development project taking place in Niger. People in a region of the country have been suffering from malnutrition and outright hunger due to periodic drought-induced crop failures. To help respond to this humanitarian crisis, an NGO that was providing food aid to the region partnered with some researchers … 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


Sometimes the simplest concepts are the most powerful. In a more volatile world, one brought on by the converging challenges of energy, environment, and society, one such concept might be of a lot of use: buffers. To buffer is “to lessen or moderate the impact” of something. That’s just what we need—volatility itself can be … Continue Reading

Computing in the Long Emergency

Where will computing go in the coming years? I thought I should find out, so I watched this roundtable and other talks and interviews on the subject (warning: it’s pretty dry stuff). I came away underwhelmed. Maybe it’s that besides technological utopians of the Ray Kurzweil variety, the visions of the future presented by technologists … 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

How much energy does the Internet use?

At the moment I’m using the Internet, as are you.  In many ways, the Internet is the largest and perhaps most successful global system ever built by humanity.  And yet because of the way it was built—haphazardly, over the course of a few decades—there are no maps, no records documenting its entire structure. Given my … Continue Reading