About the inquiry

Reasonable, well-intentioned and thoughtful people disagree strongly with respect to questions of energetics and societal futures that many might assume should yield to straightforward analytic reasoning. Surely this is just a matter of getting the numbers right, of establishing the appropriate facts? Well actually, no. If we start with that assumption, we miss the crucially important shaping role that our own individual yet culturally-situated ways of knowing and sense-making play in deciding what should count as relevant facts in the first place, let alone what the best numbers might be for establishing them. Beyond this Brief Anomaly explores questions of energetics and society in ways that are both epistemologically reflexive; and ontologically sceptical. In more common parlance: by paying attention to and caring about how the questions we ask define and limit what we might learn; and by keeping in mind that the way things appear to be is not how they ultimately are. The value of this approach is that it discourages foreclosing on matters involving irreducible uncertainty—where playing things out in real-time is sometimes the most expedient way of coming to usefully conclusive answers.

A key contention underpins the inquiry: while the language of energy is very widely used in industrial culture, what energy is “all about” is rarely reflected upon and is often poorly understood. The early posts lay down a little ground work in relation to this, taking an approach that is likely to be quite different to those encountered elsewhere, that may well be provocative, but that I hope also provides a fruitful basis for developing some valuable insights further on. This also provides an introduction to what it means to approach questions of energetics and society in a systemic way.

Underlying all of this is my view that rigorous energy discourse should not be the exclusive domain of technical specialists. What we’re dealing with when we consider situations of interest to us in energetic terms is rather abstract, but can perhaps be made more widely accessible if the language of energetics is re-connected with concrete, day-to-day experience. This doesn’t mean that developing greater fluency with what energy is all about is necessarily easy—but it probably can be more widely accessible to people with a general rather than a specialist interest. It should be possible for energy specialists and interested laypeople to meet on common ground—without an automatic tendency to dismiss the views of those not formally trained in the natural sciences or engineering.

While Beyond this Brief Anomaly is published via a blog platform, for the most part posts are more substantial than is typical for a blog, being closer in style to journal articles or even book chapters. Many will involve significant research. As a consequence, I won’t necessarily have a regular publication schedule, and there will be some extended pauses along the way. On the other hand, much of the content is intended to have a long shelf-life, and to form part of a thematically integrated whole. In time there will be a significant back-catalogue of material available for new readers who are interested in more.

This is not simply an investigation into energy for its own sake. The point of conducting this in-depth inquiry into energetics is to contribute to the foundations for high quality social foresight (for more on social foresight and sustainability see this paper, and for an example of what it can look like in practice, see the Centre for Australian Foresight’s Future Makers Program). Ultimately, the intention of this is to contribute, at least modestly, to supporting humanity find better ways of acting together in the face of the challenges before us.

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