Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jevon's Paradox

Jevon's Paradox is the observation that once something increases in efficiency, it ends up using more resources, and it's somewhat interesting.

One example of the paradox is the invention of the computer. Before widespread use of computers, they were marketed as shortening work weeks and reducingthe use of because they were capable of doing work more efficiently. But instead of shortening work weeks and simplifying the work process, people ended up working the same amount of time, but doing much more work. Also, the amount of paper used after the invention of computers has increased dramatically, because it's extremely convenient to find and print articles and essays out in order to physically work with something that is neat (font vs. handwriting).

Another example is making food less unhealthy and then marketing it as 'fat free' . People often don't buy 'diet' food so they can eat the same amount of it with less calories. Often people will use it as an excuse to eat more of it-- and perhaps so much more of it it's even worse for them than eating the original thing.

A final example is the invention of tasers. Initially, tasers were intended and marketed for the purpose of lessening police shootings. However, it has been found that in many cases police shootings do not go down (although a significant amount have), and more importantly, instances of police brutality have increased.

The overall trend is that as efficiency of resources increase, use of those resources also increases. As items become more efficient to use, they become less costly to use, and may end up being used much more. Supply and demand. It's simple, but... what does that say about our current attempts to lower the amount of energy we use by creating green energy alternatives? Even if we make our technology put out less CO2 and use less costly energy, is it possible that our technological innovations meant to cheapen and lessen our energy use lead to us using up more energy than ever before? I don't know much about environmental technology, but what if that technology has the opposite effect on the environment in the long run? Is there more we have to do than improve energy efficiency? [link]

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