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Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology by Mickey McManus, Joe Ballay, Peter Lucas

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CHAPTER 8

Life in an Information Ecology

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the Universe.

—CARL SAGAN

A humane and vibrant trillion-node world will result only from principled design, but not design in the sense that most people understand that term. Like the global financial economy, the trillion-node world will be a deeply complex ecology, not simply a collection or even a “patterned arrangement” of devices, information, power, and so on. An ecology carries with it a lot of embedded—often implicit—information about how things are related—not just what the things are. The ecology reveals who lives with whom, who eats whom, what happens to waste, how things are born and die, where the energy comes from, how things become aware of the other things around them, how new needs are recognized, opportunities to colonize, threats about being colonized . . . and much more.

An ecology has no “authority” serving as a central control. It is self-regulating in much the sense that a market economy is self-regulating. Yes, outside forces can tinker with it, resulting in a shift in the ecology’s equilibrium position. But too much tinkering results in its actually becoming a new or different ecology or, at the extreme, a catastrophic failure.

Small World
By Joe
The simplest example of an ecology in my personal experience is the fishpond in my backyard. It was there when we bought the house about ten years ago. At first it seemed like a big responsibility to ...

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