Sunday, 21 September 2014

Vacliv Smil | atoms to bits?

This gave me a great deal of food for thought. It is assumed thinking these days that there is a great dematerialisation of economy activity, often cited as "atoms to bits". But maybe we should relook at our assumptions...

In his latest book, Making the Modern World, he cites computer-aided design. The Boeing 747, designed in the 1960s, required 75,000 drawings with a total weight of eight tonnes. Using CAD for the 767 in the 1990s did away with all that paper, and cut costs and design time. However, as Prof Smil points out, the CAD system required computers, data storage, communications, screens and electricity to run it. Given the complexity of the systems involved, it is far from obvious that the switch to CAD cut US use of materials overall.


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