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The curse of efficiency

by CEO & Chairman at Cochrane Associates on Nov 06, 2013

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Of all the species on the planet we are alone in optimizing anything and everything. But this is not a route to long term sustainability, and to move on from the destructive vice of manufacturing more ...

Of all the species on the planet we are alone in optimizing anything and everything. But this is not a route to long term sustainability, and to move on from the destructive vice of manufacturing more and more for the few, to a world of providing sufficient for the many, we have to think and act very differently. Today’s technologies and production methods cannot achieve an equitable, stable and sustainable future for mankind, but future tech probably can.

The key starting point lies at the cusp of nano, bio, artificial life and artificial intelligence, and our key challenge is to understand and master complexity. These components lie at the heart of (virtually) lossless repurposing, reuse and recycling and minimal energy consumption. We have to move on to material printing and programing instead of machining and forging; tagging and tracking instead of destruction and dumping; organic symbiosis instead of environmental destruction.

Is there an existence theorem for this hypothesis? Look no further than mother nature! She optimizes and wastes nothing, always goes for low energy and low material consumption, recycles efficiently whilst achieving impressive resiliency. Can we do the same ? Almost certainly, but we have to rethink our ‘short termism and quick win’ modes of operation, and we have to adopt methods and solutions focused on the long term future. We also have to adopt ‘good enough’ strategies instead of extreme optimization. In turn, this demands a partnership and symbiosis with our machines to overcome our fundamental human limitations precluding us achieving these goals unaided.

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