On smelly infrastructure

Human waste is both a valuable resource, e.g. fertilizer, and a  pollutant e.g. spreading diseases. A recent fascinating book by Lina Zeldovich, discusses the history and current development of human waste infrastructure. Hunter-gatherers had a natural disgust for human waste, did not like the smell, did their necessities outside the campsite, covered it, and moved around […]

The crippling costs of efficiency

There might be various contributing factors to the current high inflation and labor shortages such as the disruptive pandemic, stimulus money increasing demand, and the war in the Ukraine. A key systemic problem explaining the current situation is the loss of resiliency of economies with their focus on the efficiency of global supply chains. As […]

Is trust a public or private good? – and why this matters

Trust has become a hot topic of late. With increasing polarization in political parties and decreasing trust in government, many are becoming more concerned about the corrosive effect of this loss of trust on our capacity to effectively govern. This loss of governance capacity has at least 2 potential effects: large societies may become unstable […]

Renting the American Dream

Homeownership has long been seen as an essential feature  of the American Dream, in which equality of opportunity is available to any American. The current housing crisis is long in the making and illustrates how external events expose the fragility of the American Dream.  The 2008 housing bubble caused a pause in construction, a buying […]

Work and human development – a clash of institutions?

A popular saying is “it takes a village to raise a child”.   While certainly true, raising a child this way is difficult to scale up.  As a result, in modern times,  we have created a formal educational system that serves an industrial economic model of a standard 9-to-5 work day for adults that does […]

Making the provision of highways more participatory

Highways are an iconic example of infrastructure. There are also a lot of complaints about the capacity (causing traffic jams) and quality (e.g. pot holes) of highways and other road types. An article where we analyzed highways as a coupled infrastructure system was just published in the journal Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure.  What did we […]

The Market as a Commons

A key problem in the study of environmental issues is the ‘problem of the commons’. This is a bit of a misnomer. What the ‘problem of the commons’ actually refers to is the assumption that  ‘owned in common’ actually means ‘owned by none’.  When no one owns a resource, it is easy to show how […]

Review your fair share

For academic careers it is essential to publish your work in reputable peer-reviewed journals. Publish or perish – the pressure to publish – leads to an increased level of research output (about 2 million articles a year), but it is less clear whether it has increased the quality of knowledge production at the same rate. […]

Dynastic privilege as a coupled infrastructure system

When we think of infrastructure, we see the ‘hardware’ readily.  Bridges, roads, power lines, airports, buildings and parking lots. The ‘wetware’ is also easy to see – watersheds, animals, oceans, and plants. The ‘software’ is much more difficult to see.  Steve Jobs and Bill Gates purportedly once argued about what was more important: software or […]

Elite running as a coupled infrastructure system

August 7, 2021, Jacob Ingebrigtsen became the 1500 meter Olympic champion in 2021 at 20 years of age in a new Olympic record. This is a remarkable achievement for the young Norwegian, but not a surprise for those who followed his development, documented in Team Ingebrigtsen. The Ingebrigtsen family created a coupled infrastructure system that […]