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The Immeasurable: How some actions have unintended benefits and consequences

Updated: Jul 2


Study after study. Book after endless book. There are multiple platforms for an infinite supply of documentaries to show that our actions have unseen benefits and consequences. Things we don't think about. Hurdles we don't expect. 


Who knew that there was a correlation between asbestos and lung problems -until we figured it out. Who knew that lead and mercury could cause birth defects and other reproductive harms?


We’ve decimated entire populations of animals because we just assumed there were more.  That it was impossible to kill all the bison or all the birds.


Until we learned, and forced it to become common knowledge, we just dealt with it. Over time, and through laws and protections (at least in some countries) we have doubled our average lifespan since even just 200 years ago. Instead of dying of preventable diseases and conditions, we are surviving to much older ages!


Unfortunately there are still nefarious and “potentially hazardous substances” like Chromium 6, Trichloroethylene, etc. They're still there.


However, without these substances, our modern life would be significantly different than it is now. Without gasoline and gas vapor, modern gas engines wouldn't work. 


Gas vapor is a friend to engines and an assistant to people in the right circumstances. The same goes for nuclear capacity. Is it bad or good? What are the unseen consequences and benefits? Is “unlimited power” worth the arms race that resulted in the loss of multiple cities full of people?


What about natural gas? Are we doing damage to the earth with the extraction? Are we doing more harm than good?

Photo via Pexels


Both consequences and benefits need to be drawn out much of the time. Some of the reactions are just impossible to anticipate. Like when we discovered that cans of food needed treatment to prevent rust from getting into preserved foods, these growing pains can be as close to us as the kitchen pantry. 


 

Did you know that there is a positive correlation between time spent outside and in sunlight and mental health? Simply by being outside, in the natural flow of nature.

 

It was reported by the University of Michigan that the carbon footprint of some produce grown at home is much greater than some industrialized farms? But not all urban farm produce is the same. There are many deep questions about efficiency and nature that correlate, even if we don’t yet know about it.  


What are the opportunities to maximize space, minimize effort, and reduce the carbon footprint of food in the United States? What about overseas? How can we better distribute food to those who need it? What is the most equitable way to help other countries? To de-escalate conflicts? How can we help those in need by tapping into these unseen benefits?


Considering that the US is notoriously wasteful with food and other consumer goods, it's curious where unseen benefits may lie when considering small changes to common practices.


Answering these questions could point to opportunities to reduce suffering address the needs of many. By streamlining our data collection, we can may both maximize our environmental output, and minimize damages.


For instance, did you know that Data is suddenly more valuable than any natural resource? 


Otherwise, Why are user agreements so easy to sign and forget? 


It’s because there is more money for companies to be made with your data than the actual product itself in many cases. The ability to gather data on a manual level can often be limited or extremely difficult. When data collection is automated, such as cookie tracking online, or user watching preferences on streaming services, that data can be used to make existing content better or to create content that will fill holes in user knowledge gaps. 


Furthermore; Privately managed as well as Government databases with information about whathaveyou could be used to make incredibly hard decisions much easier through statistically accurate methods. Structures could be combined with land survey data, and mapped with extreme accuracy using drone photography to create 3D images of everything. If these data sets were combined, developments and additions, and mapping of sewers and the identification of areas for improvement could be made much much easier. The downside is a complete loss of privacy on a residential and commercial level. If every inch is mapped and available to view, anyone can see whatever they want to with a pair of smart glasses.


So, although open source of this scale would make all manners of construction significantly easier, and promote faster development of real estate, the push back on accurate mapping and the loss of proprietary data would cause political and social pushback. Right now, all of those data points are separated by paywalls, accounts with passwords, and restricted access causing a slow development process and restricting the pace of change. 


Without restrictions, we would have the potential to create high-definition 3D maps of properties, creaaccurate to a centimeter. 


In terms of measuring the value of this type of advancement, It is effectively impossible to account for all of the potential pitfalls. Furthermore, with AI technologies on the verge of breakthroughs, these converging technologies may come to a point where data collection is more about simply asking the right questions than actual efforts to collect data. 


What are the seen and unseen benefits and consequences of AI? I wonder, what will we know in 10 or 15 years that we didn't know today. What are the benefits and consequences? 


Next time, I’ll be discussing some practices on recycling and technologies that can help us better sort our trash. Because after all, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”


Thanks for reading!

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