Friday, January 20, 2017

More efficiency, more consumption?

Developers of technology pursue efficiency relentlessly.  This is done for a variety of reasons: Efficiency is readily quantified and lends itself to comparison between designs; a preference for efficiency seems simply rational (who wouldn't prefer a more efficient car over a less efficient one?); increases in efficiency increase sustainability.

Technology is often linked to efficiency. As in, technology change or technological progress equals greater efficiency. In our courses we try to break students of that assumption, and consider cases where greater efficiency may be harmful or anti-progressive. One of our favourites is Jevon's Paradox, in which an improvement in efficiency can paradoxically lead to an increase in consumption of the resource.

But here's another example. In this case, traffic efficiency was reduced to make streets safer.