New Civilization News: Fault-tolerant technology    
 Fault-tolerant technology9 comments
9 Oct 2001 @ 20:21, by Flemming Funch

Seems to me that a lot of potential problems in the world are there because of technology and systems that only work when everything is going well, and that aren't prepared for things going wrong, or for deliberate misuse. Un-collapsible buildings and un-highjackable planes are certainly technologically possible. But it is generally not how we design things. Too many of our technological constructions have single points of failure. Knock out a few key pieces, and the whole thing tumbles down. Blow up a few supporting pillars and a building falls down. Cut the right cable and millions of people have no TV or electricity. Pull out the plug out of your own computer and, no matter how many millions of transistors it has, they all stop working.

We've gotten very used to it, so you might say: "Of course my computer doesn't run if it has no power". Maybe so, but why should it depend totally on the continuous connection between two tiny pieces of metal in the plug? Why should it become inoperable if you just break that contact for a millisecond?

Nature doesn't work that way. Nature almost never has single points of failure. Cut a branch off a tree and it doesn't stop being a tree. There's no single point of control, or of failure, in natural systems. There's lots of redundancy. If it doesn't work out to do things one way, they'll be done another way. There are multiple pieces taking care of the same functions.

I think we need a totally different way of thinking about constructing things. Not assuming that they'll be operating under ideal conditions, but rather assuming that everything that can go wrong WILL go wrong once in a while. So, we need stuff that keeps working even when things go wrong, even when they're misused and mistreated.

The prevalent paradigm is that we fix things when they go wrong. If your car doesn't run, somebody will look in the engine and find out which part is broken and will put in another one. That's really silly. I want a car that doesn't depend on any one part which might break when I least expect it.

Nature continuously breaks down and rebuilds, but it isn't a problem. That's part of what makes things work. The whole keeps working, even when parts fail.

So, I think we need to build whole things. I think we need to make technology like an anthill, rather than as an ant, as a forest rather than a tree. Meaning, technology built on the principle that it is important that it works, and where there's enough of an ecosystem between the individual pieces that it will keep working even when parts fail.

Our current technology is related to our economics and our systems of governance, I'd suspect. A dysfunctional system where a few will control and profit from the actions of the many, but where the detail outcomes of individual actions don't matter much. It is "good" for the economy that cars break down. Wars are "good" for the economy, because then we can produce a lot more stuff.

But as our technological and economical systems are becoming increasingly inter-connected, and vulnerable to systemic failures, that old way of looking at it makes less and less sense.

Now we discover that we'd actually like a building or an airplane that can't fall down. And we discover that our technological tradition has spent little effort on that kind of thing.

So, it is time for a new age of technology, a new kind of systems.

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10 Oct 2001 @ 04:16 by jstarrs : Failure and samsara
One of the essential buddhist tenets is based on the fact that you can't 'count' on samsaric existence to satisy you. Even more, suffering is inherent in samasaric existence - birth, sickness, old age and death. When you contemplate this nature, coming together, abiding and fading away, you can that nothing is there that has an inherent and abiding quality to satisfy. That's why your car breaks down, airplanes fall from the sky and buildings fall. I don't think a new technology would be exempt.  

10 Oct 2001 @ 14:02 by ming : Samsara
Hm, interesting and unexpected angle, Jeff. Because we mostly live in Samsara (the fragmented, constantly changing, always imperfect material world) our technology can never quite work right. I would be more pragmatic about it, I think. We're talking about wholeness versus fragmentation. Something that is fragmented and incomplete is likely to work in an imperfect way. But something that is whole works differently. Particularly I think it is worthwhile to look at the characteristics of living systems. Living systems, like cells, bodies, eco-systems, planets, galaxies, are thriving on the little imperfections. Evolution is driven by the existence of great diversity and many little failures and imperfection. The whole keeps running fine, even if many little pieces are going wrong. So it is kind of like there's a higher level principle at work, more in tune with realities beyond the material. In the bigger picture what is important is that life goes on in one form or another, no matter what temporary things are created or destroyed along the way. I don't think it is all crazy to try to get technology to work in similar ways as nature, where there is a whole that keeps running, no matter how much the parts break. For example, I need communication technology in order to have this conversation with you here. I don't really have to care whether it is through this computer or that computer, through my cellphone, my TV, my shoe, or whatever. What I care about is the result. And the web itself has taken a number of steps in that direction. If my computer breaks down, I can access this place just as well from some other computer with web access. So, I guess what I'm asking for is more consciousness about designing things that don't depend too much on specific parts which can break. The web is a good example, at least from the user end. My car is not a good example, but various public transportation methods might be. It doesn't matter to me if one taxi is broken down, as long as there are others. So, I'd like to see more of our systems operating "above" the level of details that can break down.  

11 Oct 2001 @ 11:49 by sharie : Free World, Free Energy, Freedom
Thank you Flemming for bringing up this topic of our magnificent potential for creating a system that lives and grows by its own volition. Relinquishing our dependence on artificial currencies, not only money and bartering, but other energy currencies, such as electricity in order to comfort and satisfy us (to warm us, to cool us, to give us music and entertainment, and so on). I advocate the use of the true currency of love, all of us giving and sharing the beauty of our brilliance and bliss and gifts freely, just as nature does. Our community members are also committed to the creation of Free Energy, using cold electricity as Tesla, Gray, Lindemann, and others have advocated, or any other means. Electricity is just as artificial an energy form as money is, and Tesla, Gray, and many others have proven this to be true. Having a social system that functions as a whole is unlikely while inequalities of resources and luxuries among the people are so conspicuous. Thank you so much for giving and sharing your self so freely, Flemming.  

2 Nov 2001 @ 12:50 by peazritr : shoes with talking souls
ok, yes! from a fashion standpoint, let's push that talking shoe concept & put communicators in the soles!!! let's keep it affordable, too! nanofashion! computerized flipflops!!! where's the lab?  

22 Dec 2002 @ 20:43 by sapient : Things That Work

22 Dec 2002 @ 20:59 by sapient : Things That Work
Forgive the doubble, brain malfunction.

Our grandfathers built things that work. My father has a 50's model refrigrator
in the basement that still work's just fine. Business is based on breakable,
throw-away, unfixable products. They do not want dependable products because
then it would cut out there bonuses and put people out of work.
It seems that they want an unchanging Status Quo where nothing new will ever
get out untill all possible $'s are received.
Challenge name some things in society that is not disposable.  

23 Dec 2002 @ 01:13 by ming : Thinks that keep working
Well, there is a market for stuff that's sort of unbreakable, even if it is a relatively small market for retro afficionados. Zippo lighters, Rolex watches. The blender/juicer in my kitchen is a Vita-Mix, which costs several times more than a normal blender, but it is pretty much unbreakable, and it is very simple and probably looked the same many years ago. But I think it will change, so that more people will have an awareness of quality, rather than just a fondness for retro kitchen appliances.  

29 Apr 2016 @ 05:14 by Dolley @ : tOGkzFtAMUMRfweCxOw
For the love of God, keep writing these artleics.  

30 Apr 2016 @ 01:09 by Chubby @ : cDRQIZASTkxDbd
Lemon curd is one of my guilty pleasures. I try not to make it too often since I tend to &#&t;022aste-test8#8221; it until it is all gone! Delicious. I especially love lemon tarts.  

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