with consumers could be of value in
a new economy. Such simplification
is responsive to Tainter’s argument
that increasing complexity leads to increasing burdens for systems which at
some point they cannot bear. 33 Technologies that provide services while
reducing complexity at the same time,
square conceptually with what we
know from the historical and archaeological record about the relationship
between increasing societal complexity and eventual societal decline. This
and other efforts at disintermediation3, 36 could help reduce energy and
While we do not know for certain what
the future holds, scientists from disciplines such as climate science and
ecology have made evidence-based
predictions about directions the future
will likely take if current trends continue. However, what many computing researchers and practitioners do in
practice is to assume there is only one
possible likely future—that current trajectories of increased growth and consumption will continue. The burden of
our message in this article is that science is telling us the kinds of growth we
have recently experienced are unsustainable. Consequently, we believe the
field of computing should be paying
serious attention to futures in which we
encounter planetary limits.
LIMITS thinking emphasizes incentivizing long-term returns. It seeks to
align its efforts with the scientific disciplines documenting global transformations through climate change and
numerous other global effects. LIMITS
seeks to explore ways that computing
may support long-term well-being. We
see significant cause for concern in
many science-based projections of the
future, and we want to enable our work
to be relevant and useful with respect
to these potential realities.
The authors thank several anonymous
reviewers for their cogent comments,
as well as the entire LIMITS community for helping shape the ideas in
this article. This material is based in
part on work supported by the NSF under Grants No. CCF-1442749 and IIS-
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Bonnie Nardi ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a professor in the
Department of Informatics at University of California,
Bill Tomlinson ( email@example.com) is a professor
in the Department of Informatics at the University of
California, Irvine, USA, and an adjunct professor in the
School of Information Management, Victoria University of
Wellington, New Zealand.
Donald J. Patterson ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is
a professor in the Department of Math and Computer
Science at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.
Jay Chen ( email@example.com) is an assistant professor in
the Department of Computer Science at NYU Abu Dhabi,
Daniel Pargman ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate
professor in the Department of Media Technology and
Interaction Design at KTH Royal Institute of Technology,
Barath Raghavan ( email@example.com) is an
assistant professor of computer science at the University
of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA.
Birgit Penzenstadler (Birgit. Penzenstadler@csulb.edu)
is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer
Engineering and Computer Science at California State
University, Long Beach, USA.
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