Monday, 5 November 2007

The Second Enlightenment

Finally, my decision in my last year of high school to drop from higher grade to standard grade mathematics seems vindicated. I didn't enjoy it and any talent I may have had for it was spoiled by a certain teacher fairly early on. It soon became clear to me that my talents lay elsewhere.

Only very recently it seems, though, that people are beginning to be able to gain any kind of real recognition or status for being talented in any other areas, like the arts or subjects like marketing or understanding of human behaviour. I think the reasons for this are numerous and come from very different angles. The world's centuries-long obsession with science and progress, or rather, progress through science only, seems to be reaching it's end. Sir Ken Robinson made some very good points at last year's TED. Well worth it.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Linear programming to save the earth

As Stephen Hawking says, we are in fact going to have to leave the planet in order to stay alive. Assuming that this is the case – we definitely need to prepare to leave at a certain rate if we are to leave in time and stand any chance.

The time we have left will also be determined by the extra time we give ourselves by doing what we can, now, to save the environment. Of course we want to save the environment for its own sake anyway, but now we have a second reason - to win us time for the preparation to leave. The preparation itself will be determined, largely, by the amount of resources that can be allocated towards it, i.e. not toward saving the environment.

In other words, we need to put the greatest amount of effort into the environment and insodoing acquire the most time we can get, with the least expense to the preparation itself (in case we don’t make it).

If my memory serves me correctly (which it probably doesn’t), the mathematical tool needed to optimise two such grand plans is something called linear programming. But we will need an enormously complicated version of it, similar to the calculations used to determine our personal or corporate environmental footprint. Plenty of people are good at these calculations and it strikes me as something that needs to be calculated too if we are to really not waste any time and allow for the most pleasant time we have left here.