Posts for the Topic jevons paradox

Smart lights reduce congestion in Pittsburgh

An item in IEEE Spectrum by Prachi Patel notes the development of a smart traffic system in Pittsburgh.  Called Surtrac, the system developed by CMU professor Stephen Smith uses Artificial Intelligence techniques to adapt traffic signals to current conditions.

Prof. Smith's research suggests that Surtrac has reduced trip times 25 percent and idling times by over 40 percent, a significant difference.

Traffic inefficiencies and technological change

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.

Drones, crops and Jevons' Paradox

Jevons' Paradox concerns how increases in efficiency can lead to increases—rather than decreases—in consumption of resources.  Designers expend a great deal of brainpower and passion on increasing the efficiency of their designs.  The goal is often to decrease consumption of a resource, as a way of improving overall sustainability.  In brief, the reasoning is that if a given task can be completed with fewer resources, then those resources will be conserved.

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