Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pay Me Now Or Pay Me Later


I recall a commercial where the fellow was selling oil filters for cars or something like that and the reason for spending extra on a high quality oil filter came down to the statement "Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later".  This meant if you do not invest in the higher quality oil filter now your engine will wear out sooner and the financial cost will be greater than what you would have paid in the cost of all those high quality oil filters.


Today on the Wired Science Blog a story about the probability of a massive solar flare was posted. Here is the link to the abstract of the article


I think this prediction is a good argument in favor of converting our power network to a distributed model where individual power consumption nodes all have very small and independent footprints.  Doing this is possible right now for residential dwellings by using solar panels to generate electricity and using earth-heat-pumps to keep the temperature inside the dwelling manageable. 


This prediction is also a good argument in favor of switching over our data network to be optical, away from electrical.


The 'Pay-Me-Later' part of this could be a catastrophic event that takes down the Age of Information. 


The 'Pay-Me-Now' part is the realization that changing how the power grid is structured and moving to an all optical data network is very expensive.


My expectation is that we will worry about this a lot in the coming years, and if we are lucky, and the event does not occur too soon, then we will have adopted, for the most part, infrastructure changes that allow civilization to persist across such an event when it does happen.