Designing Circular Economies for long-term Sustainability
Beginning in 2023, sustainability and circular economic design can become the norm, rather than the exception. This means:
- Reducing waste generated globally
- Increasing the efficiency and ease of recycling
- Better utilizing and integrating existing technologies
- Reclaiming more of the resources currently put to waste
- Designing systems to be repaired and upgraded, rather than for planned obsolescence
From Waste to Wealth
Most systems in the world today aren’t designed to be circular, as the world’s overflowing trash dumps can attest.
This is largely because circular systems are inherently more difficult to design than systems where leftovers are thrown away and new materials are brought in to replace them. When the additional hard constraints of circularity are imposed on the design of a system locally optimal solutions no longer suffice, and the bar is raised.
Systems Thinking is required to overcome this, considering the system as a whole with every optimization, iteratively pulling the systems into circularity. No matter how talented the specialist most real-world large-scale problems like this are too complex for humans to apply this kind of design in any meaningful sense.
Attempting to locally stitch sustainability into the pain points of a problem has become notorious for substantially increasing costs, epitomizing the opposite of Systems Thinking. Fortunately, we have a better option.
Norn can apply Systems Thinking to each sustainability pain point, developing broad and deep expertise across all of the domains each problem demands. By considering the system as a whole with every single design choice each such system can be rebuilt with greater or even full circularity, without large cost increases.
Many well-intentioned efforts have been made in the name of sustainability, just as many have backfired. Even the best of intentions require better design, most of all for hyper-complex problems like global supply chains, sustainability, and circular economy design. Everything from smartphones to power generation could be redesigned for repair and upgrading rather than replacement and disposal. Many industrial processes could be replaced with microbes adept at performing the chemistry required for recycling and manufacturing.
Not only can the resources we now have last far longer and offer more value, but much of the material that has been thrown away could also be reclaimed.
Scalable intelligent systems like Norn offer us the means to discover the solutions to the world’s most challenging and urgent problems.
Most systems in the world today aren’t designed to be circular, as the world’s overflowing trash dumps can attest.Much of the damage from climate change can still be avoided, and even reversed, but it will take greater intelligence to solve our problems today than it took to get us here. Now we have the technology, and that journey is about to begin.