Measurement and Awareness
In order to know whether an action or invention is positive or negative for the world, there needs to be some kind of feedback from the system. In the absence of this feedback, there is little more than insufficient guesses and suppositions. However, the way that we choose to measure the performance and impact of our products, processes, and systems will often have a profound impact on the understanding that we take away from these measurements. (Even the compass is only two-dimensional.) If we are operating in multi-dimensional systems like those involved with sustainability, we will need measurement systems that are as multi-dimensional if we wish to gain insight from them. Traditional, limited measurements such as efficiency measures will be insufficient for this complex system. Additionally, our measurement systems have often been retrospective tools that would give us reports on what happened in the past sometimes with long enough lag times that the information itself is irrelevant. We now have tools and computational abilities that can provide real-time insights and awareness that allow for relevant action.