LIMITS’2015 – Computing within limits

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This a late blogpost about the workshop Computing within Limits that I and Daniel attended in Irvine* the 15-16 of June 2015. Or really, Daniel was one of the main organizers of the workshop, which was a first of its kind. This were the theme of the workshop:

LIMITS 2015 aims to foster discussion on the impact of present or future ecological, material, energetic, and/or societal limits on computing. These topics are seldom discussed in contemporary computing research. The medium-term aim of the workshop is to foster concrete research, potentially of an interdisciplinary nature, that innovates on technologies, techniques, and contexts for computing within fundamental limits. A longer-term goal is to build a community around relevant topics and research, with LIMITS 2015 constituting the inaugural meeting. A goal of this community is to impact society through the design and development of computing systems in the abundant present for use in a future of limits and/or scarcity.

All participants at the workshop had been invited to send in position papers to the workshop, which were then peer-reviewed before acceptance. There was a great diversity, and the papers presented intriguing subjects, I can only recommend you to browse the list of papers under program and papers and read those that catch your eye. Personally I presented a paper that I had co-authored with Bran Knowles, ”Deviant and Guilt-ridden – Psychological Limits to Computing”, where we start discussing the psychological and sociological limits when trying to work/research computing within limits.

My main take-away from the workshop, besides the obvious of meeting researchers I have been keen on meeting for a long time, was the discussion around how to address, discuss or get papers published that handles limits, degrowth** and a future of scarcity. One participants told us that his papers hade been met with comments in the lines of ”this is Mad Max scenarios, not research” when sending his texts to conferences. There were interesting discussions on complexity and if we can scale down complexity in society in a ordered fashion, and I really liked the term ”refactoring society” which Barath Raghavan coined in one pre-workshop discussion.

In terms of research areas, this was workshop where several different computing areas met around limits, so that there where scholars in ICT4D, networking, software engineering, Human-Computer Interaction, sensors and energy. I do hope this research community can get more established and grow [sic!]. There are many interesting topics that can come out of this group, even though you don’t believe in decline or collapse scenarios.



* ironically #1 we were in a place where it has been a severe drought for several years, and where there were only one year of water reserves left in the state. Talking about a limits scenario.
** ironically #2, my web browser does not want to recognize degrowth as a proper word, but tries to auto-correct it to regrowth. 🙂



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