You Want the Future? You Can’t Handle the Future! Perspectives on Sustainability Brad Allenby Founding Director, Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineerin g USBCSD October 18, 2011
Note that many other scenarios are possible and, given current trends, perhaps even more probable
Has become increasingly ambiguous over time as different institutions adopt different definitions to suit their requirements.
What is to be sustained? The Earth? Biodiversity? Human life? Existing economic and power structures?
Mismatch between degrees of freedom of managers and technocrats, and global sustainability issues.
Oversimplifies complexity of current and future environments, especially given accelerating technological evolution
Focus on resource use, versus information structures
Fails to consider even very foreseeable trends such as radical life extension
Sustainability and Basic Political Values Libertarian: justice is equality of opportunity Communitarianisn: welfare is optimized by individual being absorbed in community Egalitarian: justice is equality of outcome Corporatism: welfare is optimized by free economic activity of individuals Sustainable Development U.S. polity
Must try to understand lifecycle (easy for material in specific use; harder for complex product; harder for service – what is the “lifecycle” of the Net?)
Must include not just environmental, but social dimensions
Serious normative issues: who gets to define what is to be sustained, what social values to prioritize?
Services much harder to design, evaluate implications, than products
Where is boundary between product, service, and earth system (e.g., jet airplane, a product, enables tourism, a service, which is part of broader system of global travel including impacts on previously unreachable environments, airplane as disease vector, etc.)
Changing Dimensions of Work Manufacturing Paradigm Flexible, virtual time and space TIME/SPACE Defined, clock time Dedicated, co-located PLACE Non-place based, individual choice Full-time employment EMPLOYMENT Self-employed, full spectrum of relations to firm Fixed, impermeable LIFE BOUNDRIES (e.g., family/work) Porous, constantly shifting MODEL OF FIRM Evolving network within globalization networks Stable, fixed institution Knowledge production, defined by intranets Firm Facility-based, physical production SKILLS Dynamic, complex, individualized, unstable Stable, clearly defined Knowledge Economy Paradigm
Policy Response Matrix: Cyborg Insects Policy Response Technology Level Goals and Effects Policy Response Level I: Military effectiveness Reduce collateral damage and increase operational efficiency in counterinsurgency operations Goals and technology align; therefore adopt technology Level II: Security effectiveness Protect civilian populations from terrorists and, through mission creep, criminals Implement technology, but technology alone may not lead to achievement of stated goal Level III: Social and cultural effects Ensure orderly society; likely to reduce privacy and enable “soft” or “hard” totalitarian state; shift of power to technologically rich organizations (e.g., private firms). Optimistic goals likely to be undercut as those in power adopt cybersect technology to their own ends; Level I and Level III implications potentially in fundamental conflict
“ He, only, merits freedom and existence Who wins them every day anew.” (Goethe, 1833, Faust , lines 11,575-76)