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Energy and quality of life
What is energy good for? Simply put, energy performs work, which underlies all economic activity. Work (in the physics sense) is relevant because it produces quality of life. Technology is nothing more than a design for converting work into a product, which may or may not be associated with quality of life. Finally, the harnessing of concentrated energy - energy that, from a human perspective, produces more directed work output than total human work input (e.g. an EROEI of greater than 1) - facilitates the existence of complex society.
Jeff Vail suggests a new term, borrowing loosely from Jacques Ellul:W Technics. While “technology” converts work into any product, “technics” is a more specific term that can be used to denote the design process of converting work into human quality of life.
It seems axiomatic that the goal of humanity is to optimize quality of life. There are nearly endless debates that can begin here - how is quality of life defined, do we measure the mean, median, mode, or selfish-individual level, etc. - but IF we can answer the question “what is quality of life,” then we all share the goal of optimizing it.
This leaves us with a simple equation: Quality of Life = Work * Technics
To optimize quality of life, improve the availability of work (through wider access to the tools and resources needed to perform work), and improve technics.
- Follow this analysis further at Limits of energy availability and efficiency.
- The Design Imperative, April 08, 2007