Re: [unrev-II] Themes: OHS / DKR vs. Design Science

From: Paul Fernhout (
Date: Wed Nov 29 2000 - 18:02:23 PST

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    Jack Park wrote:
    > News item in this weekend's Sacramento Bee: "Servers to tax power grid"
    > (or words to that effect. California has been doing rolling power shortages
    > lately. Not sure how much of that is politics to get rate hikes, and how
    > much of that is real supply/demand issues. Who cares? It's happening.
    > News item earlier about Russia not selling arms to Iran "at this time."
    > Gads, its mind-numbing just what goes on in this world. For me, getting an
    > OHS/DKR up ASAP is a "must do now."
    > Jack

    I certainly agree that getting an OHS/DKR up ASAP is a "must do now" for
    lots of reasons. I'd also agree that California needs to do something
    now about its power problems.

    But, on the topic of dealing with "limits" of energy supply or other
    resources, here's an metaphor to consider. (It's so abstract to think
    about "energy").

    Imagine you are giving a party and have invited a large number of
    people. Shortly into the party, when only 10% of the guests have
    arrived, someone notices the onion dip is running low. You check in your
    refrigerator and discover you are all out of pre-made onion dip!
    Shortly, the only topic of conversation at the party is the "onion dip
    crisis" and what to do about it. All the beautiful topics you hoped
    people might have been talking about -- like art and poetry, or life and
    love, wisdom and stories -- have been squeezed out by everyone's concern
    over the onion dip supply. Here are some of the various plans you might
    come up with to deal with the "onion dip crisis":

    1) Ignoring it. Who knows, maybe the crisis will go away. There is
    enough onion dip for the next ten minutes of the party in any case.

    2) War. Obviously there is not enough onion dip to go around. So, only
    the strongest will have the onion dip. By your recruiting a few allies
    from the guests with which the remaining onion dip might be grudgingly
    and exclusively shared, the onion dip can be safeguarded for the elite
    (you and your associates). If that means other guests will go without or
    need to be eliminated, so be it. As some of the guests might resist this
    notion (if they are not part of the elite), you need to be prepared to
    escalate violence all the way -- even if it means threatening to burn
    the building down (killing all the guests and yourself), which of course
    you must be ready to follow through with to maintain your credibility
    and hopefully deter ever having to really do it. To that end you could
    light a few Molotov cocktails and very carefully keep them by your side.
    Your preparedness, courage, determination, and fortitude will hopefully
    ensure you and yours have a steady supply of onion dip without the need
    for actual violence (effectively deterring the guests into capitulation
    and going without onion dip). As a side effect, by controlling the onion
    dip supply, you might expect to have great power over the other guests,
    such as gaining favors in exchange for onion dip.

    3) Population control. Since only a small percentage of the guests have
    already arrived, you realize that there may be enough onion dip to get
    by if the rest of the invited guests to don't show up. You could start
    calling people on the guest list to tell them the party is canceled, and
    if any more guests do show up at the door, turn them away before they
    can get inside (even by deadly force if needed). The party may be less
    interesting with less people, but there will be more onion dip for the
    people already there. And after all, if people aren't at the party yet,
    what right do they have to make a claim on the onion dip?

    4) Rationing. The remaining onion dip might be divided up into a small
    portion for each invited guest, regardless of whether they need onion
    dip or not, or whether the onion dip is enough to satisfy them. At least
    this way, you think the onion dip is being "fairly" divided. If people
    don't like the size of their portion, tough. Perhaps an economy might
    come into existence as people trade onion dip for other things. One
    might also create a rationing scheme that takes in account individual
    guest's needs or how much you like them, perhaps enforced by some of the
    techniques outlined in choice two.

    5) Efficiency. You observe that guests often put big gobs of onion dip
    on a chip. Obviously people are mainly tasting only the outside of the
    big gob. So, perhaps most of the onion dip is being wasted as far as a
    taste experience. A method might be devised to spread onion dip very
    efficiently on each food item. For example, a couple of spoons might be
    used to uniformly apply a thin coating of onion dip to a potato chip. By
    using onion dip more efficiently, perhaps there will be enough to last
    out the party.

    6) Voluntary simplicity. If guests realized they could have a fun time
    without onion dip, or without much onion dip, then perhaps the party
    could go on anyway. Yes, you know people are expecting onion dip, it was
    at your last party, you received compliments for it, you like it
    yourself, you had placed bowls for it all over the place, but still,
    perhaps there are other things in life more important and perhaps more
    enjoyable than onion dip -- like conversation itself.

    7) Reorganizing. You realize there are onions, spices, soup mix, and
    sour cream in the kitchen. Perhaps you can make some more onion dip from
    reorganizing other resources you have but which people would not want by

    8) Virtual reality. If guests played a video game where they ate virtual
    onion dip using a computer screen and some full body Virtual Reality
    set-up (and maybe even stimulating some brain pathways for taste and
    smell), then guests might feel happy enough that the party could proceed
    anyway. And if the simulation is good enough, maybe no one would notice
    it was virtual onion dip.

    9) Substitution. Perhaps people will eat cheese dip instead? Maybe they
    would like such an alternative dip better.

    10) Population growth. You can always hope that one of the guests yet to
    arrive will bring onion dip or be able to suggest a better solution.
    Note this choice is directly at odds with the philosophy behind choice

    11) Obtaining more. You could leave the party and go to a nearby
    all-night deli in hope they have some onion dip. Of course, if you get
    there, you might run into some more friends, along with some of the
    guests who left early concerned about the probability of the party
    selecting option two, and so who knows when you might return. And of
    course, the Deli has a virtually inexhaustible supply of onion dip
    relative to your guest list's size. So, you could invite all your guests
    to go to the deli with you, and leave a note on the door to have future
    guests meet you there as well.

    12) Any more suggestions?

    So, not to poke too much fun at California's immediate electric power
    supply problems, but in my opinion it is due to bad regional planning
    and a temporary thing. For example, (from memory) 1% of the United
    States land area is currently directly or indirectly used for energy
    production (mines, roads, power plants, dumps, power line right of ways)
    and if that land area (or a similar sized area) was covered with solar
    panels or used for wind production it would produce all the energy
    (electric and other) we consume in the U.S.A. Similarly, the peak
    electrical load is for air conditioning and happens when there is the
    most sunlight, so roof solar panels might help with this. Obviously,
    solar energy has its downside too (waste from producing panels, people
    falling off roofs, etc.) but the point is there are many possible
    solutions, whether they entail efficiency, doing more with less,
    lifestyle changes, or generating more power from other sources (or a

    So in this context, is there really a "long term" unsolveable energy
    crisis worldwide? I think not -- even if there are spot shortages here
    and there on a way to an improved balance between supply and demand. I
    have an existence proof -- solar power. So, the crisis is only one of
    planning and priorities -- or in other words, vision and politics. This
    is the same reason people are starving now
    even though there is more than enough food to go around for all human

    I think an OHS can help with the vision and planning side. I don't think
    an OHS by itself can much to change distorted priorities or

    -Paul Fernhout
    Kurtz-Fernhout Software
    Developers of custom software and educational simulations
    Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator

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