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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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« Changes in State | XML is not enough to create an Enterprise Interface »
Friday
Aug172007

Dive in - Systems Surround us like Water

There is a water shortage this summer in central Carolina. As usual, most in the community are in denial and continue in the profligate use of water no matter what they hear on the news. No matter how bad it gets, a significant number of people will worry about their lawns first; they must continue to look like April in August. (N.B. The local climate supports fine healthy lawns with no watering; that’s why the area is known for golf courses.) Most people in this country have never had too little, whether it is too little food or too little comfort. Rarely does any act have any consequences. We find it very difficult to be simply mindful of the resources we use.

One of the local towns has already slipped into early crisis. Of course, there is no pricing and no market discipline; so we use regulations in their stead. Home owners are limited to Odd Even day watering. Most don’t seem to know what days they are permitted to water, or what day to call automatic overnight watering. As someone who grew up in the parched southwest, I find that my lawn, completely un-watered all season, looks pretty green.

Regulations, unlike markets, require police actions. Last week, some 300 people were given warning citations; more than 50 received a second citation and nominal fines. A third violation results in a $500 fine and disconnecting water.

I would guess that most who received warnings did not think there was a serious shortage. How serious can it be if folks can continue to use water to water their lawn? Most of those who received the citations probably have automatic irrigation systems and have no idea how it works, or how they might change it. The irrigation control system interface is obscure and un-informative. The owner of the home has no idea how to re-set it.

It comes down to mindfulness. We don’t care if things are done well, as long as we don’t have to be mindful of them. We don’t know if the yard needs watering, so we automate it and forget it. We don’t know if electricity is scarce this afternoon (100 degrees again), so we just hope that the power company keeps the electricity on. We aren’t sure what might be good to eat, so we go to a chain where we will not be surprised. We do not know want surprises, so we take the family vacation at packaged resorts and parks. We want assured results, so we give everyone in the league trophies. And yet we sign up for yoga classes to become self aware.

Life’s rich tapestry is all around. Noticing life is what makes life worth living. Becoming engaged with life is what makes people mature when they have kids. A life with no information is a barren, boring life. Living with systems that are invisible and uncontrollable is not luxury; it is a poverty of experience and the mind. We need to make out interfaces rich enough, inviting enough, and rewarding enough that we can invite everyone to enjoy life more.

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