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Why New Daedalus?

Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

Building Intelligence meets the Intelligent Building. The Intelligent Building negotiates with the Intelligent Grid. How will this transform how we interact with the physical world?

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« Distinguishing Building Service Semantics from Ontologies | Social interactions will define success of Electric Cars »
Wednesday
Jul022008

Abstract, yes, but which abstractions…

Building systems do not often produce useful information because they usually serve up concrete data, not abstract information.

Data is that annoying stream of consciousness woman who sat next to you on the bus. “Now my arm itches. Look at that girls over there; didja ever see a dress like that. I have something in my shoe. That man is looking at me funny. My nose itches. I hope I don’t miss my stop. I wonder if the fish at the store will be fresh. The fish last week was not fresh. My bra is uncomfortable.”  You really can’t do much with data, unless you know a lot about its source.

Information conveys something that is actionable. This means that all of the background details have been stripped away and you are presented with something simple, something that offers a choice.

Right now, there is great concern about information and choice about energy as a matter of national policy. Many measures are being presented as the basis for policy and law. Social and editorial arguments are being made about metrics and information. One element I am thinking of is, is fleet mileage and miles per gallon (MPG).

Richard Larrick and Jack Soll have just published a study of decision making using the MPG standard on cars. They have concluded that when presented with multiple choices, people usually make the wrong one when presented with MPG, and indicate that people would make much better decisions if presented with GPM, (or perhaps Gallons per 100 Miles).

You see, if we can move 10% of our automobile fleet driving SUVs from 12 MPG to 14 MPG, we will have a much greater effect on total gas used than if we move a different 10% of our fleet from 38 MPG to 44 MPG, assuming both segments drive the same miles. My readers are a numerate bunch – do the math; it is bet to upgrade the least efficient vehicles. People presented the same information expressed in terms of Gallons per 100 miles, have a much greater tendency to make the correct choice.

Now if everyone switched to driving 44 MPG cars, it might be better still, but that is not likely to happen. The people who sneer at hybrid SUVs may be off the mark, because there may be a lot more value for society in hybrid SUVs than there is in hybrid coupes.

Even though it grieves me, as a Carolina boy citing work from economists at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke, I recommend checking out the article in the June 20 issue of Science.

Regular readers know that I am interested in developing simple numbers to represent building performance and service provision. This study provides a caution. Even if we get the variables correct, deciding which is the numerator, and which the denominator may be critical…

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