How an emerging pattern of material flow could empower innovation

Trade and manufacturing are two cornerstones of the human endeavour, together they shape a society’s flow of tangible, material goods. As discussed in a brief history of material flow, trade and manufacturing have evolved only very slowly for most of our history, with the significant exception of the period after the Industrial Revolution. Today I’ll present snapshots of […]

Energy and society – an accident waiting to happen?

Energy, society, complexity and innovation are intertwined through a multitude of interrelations that are sometimes difficult to grasp. In an earlier post, I’ve offered a storyline to describe this nexus, based on the considerations of Joseph Tainter and Ian Morris. In essence, the energy supply available to a society poses a limit on the complexity this society can […]

Energy and society – it’s complex

At first glance, it is quite evident that society and its development depend on energy. But it takes a second, deeper look to grasp the complexity of this dependency and how that relates to innovation. Today, I’d like to develop a narrative for the nexus of energy, society, complexity, and innovation, building the storyline around two books I’ve come […]

When energy flow broke free …

From an energy perspective, you might split the entire history of mankind in just two phases: one before, and the other after the Industrial Revolution. Before that incisive event, an archaic pattern of energy flow ruled: muscle was the main source of energy to fulfil human needs; this source was decentralised and easily available to everybody, but […]

Energy for innovation

As the key resource that defines our standard of living, energy has shaped the evolution of our culture not just for decades or centuries, but since the beginning of human society. A wide variety of investigations in cultural anthropology took a deep dive into the effect of energy in the development of human culture. To give just a few examples: In 1959, Lesley White […]