The information society and its limits – the spike and the peak

 Clearly two points arise out of the articles below –

  • How do we continually reduce the ‘resource intensity of knowledge’ as it expands in volume?
  • How do we harness that expansion to continually reduce the ‘resource intensity of society’?

The anwsers to these questions are central to our ability to live within the bounds of the ‘One Planet Equation’


The information society and its limits

by Kurt Cobb

The breathtaking expansion of the Internet and the sources of information now available on it have served to conjure a cybernetic vision of unlimited growth–growth that can never be slowed for long by lack of physical resources because it is mostly virtual. The Internet has undoubtedly allowed people to find information readily that would previously have taken hours of meticulous searching in a library or might not be found at all…………

……………..It is possible, for example, that the optimistic estimates of the world’s energy supplies are correct. The consequences of that would be that business as usual could proceed for a few more decades during which we could take a very leisurely attitude toward making the transition to a new energy economy. (I am, of course, setting aside the very serious risks related to climate change in this illustration.) The consequences of being wrong, however, could include catastrophic collapse. Hence, Orr’s suggestion that we employ wide margins of safety when acting on what we think we know………..

Complete article at


The Spike and the Peak

………………..Surely, progress in IT needs plenty of resources and a functioning economy and both conditions could be at risk in the future. But the demise (transformation?) of civilization is likely to be a slow and complex affair; something that could span most of the 21st century or, at least, the first half of it. Can we keep progress in IT alive and well for that long? Probably yes or, at least, it should be possible to allocate enough energy to keep computers running.

From the IDC study that I cited before, it turns out that we spend about 30 billion dollars per year in energy used by computers and about 55 billion dollars in energy costs for new servers. This estimate doesn’t take into account all the energy used in data processing, but it gives us an order of magnitude for the core energy costs of the computing world.

Considering that the world oil market alone is of a few trillion dollars per year (depending on the vagaries of oil prices), we see that we need probably no more than a few percent the world’s energy production for our computers. It is not a negligible amount, but it seems very unlikely that, facing an energy shortage, we would cut on the vital need we have for IT.

Nobody should bet on the survival of SUVs in the coming years, but computers will keep working and Moore’s law could stay alive and well for years, at least; perhaps decades…………………………..

Complete article at


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