The Magic of 10's of Billions in Complex Systems?

Why is it that large important complex systems often have about 10-100 billion (or 1E10 to 1E11...

Handshake Chain Through History

Years ago I enjoyed the wandering of James Burke in his Connections and Dya the Universe Changed...

New Perspectives On The U.S. Corn Belt

The nighttime satellite photos of the Earth reveal much about the population distribution of the...

User picture.
picture for Sascha Vongehr
David LePoireRSS Feed of this column.

Dave explores the connections between energy, the environment, and technology. He currently works at a U.S. national laboratory on a variety of environmental science and homeland security projects... Read More »


Energy Literacy, the general knowledge about energy generation, use, and research, is rather low.  The need for energy literacy is important, however, since many of the decisions concerning economic growth and global stability depend on energy.

The field of Big History attempts to tie events from cosmology, life evolution, and history into narratives and common themes.

Often the term technology explosion is used to indicate the rapid growth of technology in areas such as information technology or biotechnology. Usually, the assumption is that innovation creates great new approaches and products that will improve our conditions. Often this advance is true and beneficial but do we really want technology advances to explode? The word explode is often associated with reactions that are out of control and usually cause significant damage. We often feel some technology out of our control when we are bombarded with new IT systems that promise efficiencies but often are incompatible with each other and shift the burden of the workflow.

A while back I wrote about the program I was involved with

For most of human history, technology changed very little during a person’s lifetime. Certainty, their life was not constant with the hard agricultural life being interrupted by war, disease, and famine. However, very few new technologies would come into their life. In contrast, tremendous change occurred throughout the 20th century as planes, cars, electricity, radio, and computers enter during their lives. In my life, I have also experienced rapid change, but it seems a bit different, more quantitative than the qualitative change seen by my grandparents’.

News concerning Artificial Intelligence (AI)  abounds again. The progress with Deep Learning techniques are quite remarkable with such demonstrations of self-driving cars, Watson on Jeopardy, and beating human Go players. This rate of progress has led some notable scientists and business people to warn about the potential dangers of AI as it approaches a human level. Exascale computers are being considered that would approach what many believe is this level.