Sending the Recipe

Another example concerns the future of space exploration. Many space enthusiasts maintain enthusiasm for sending humans back to the moon, to Mars, and beyond. However, hu­mans require tremendous resources for sup­porting life. When humans aren’t involved, the materials and energy needed are drastically reduced. Probes, satellites, and rovers have allowed us to explore Mars, other planets, and the edges of the solar system for far less money and materials. Realistically, this will more likely be the future of space exploration, espe – dally because of the distances involved. For sure, it’s not the same. It’s difficult to get the public excited about a probe when their heads are filled with images of people walking on distant planets. And probes will never be able to do everything that humans can (though they can do many things humans can’t). However, the material requirements will reduce human exploration, and this is a model for how other solutions can be made more sustainable.

Already, some products are disappearing into bits from atoms. The digital music example of transmaterialization in Chapter 8 also serves to illustrate the strategy of informationalization.

In fact, without the ability to faithfully repro­duce music digitally, it wouldn’t have been a possibility to turn music products into music services.

Email is another good example of informa­tionalization. While we can’t send everything through email that we once sent via physical mail, most of what we communicate doesn’t require physical material—especially business correspondence where sentiment isn’t as im­portant—opening the opportunity to commu­nicate digitally at a vastly lower environmental impact.

Informationalization is all about sending the message, the recipe, the data, whenever and wherever the physical thing itself can be rep­licated at the destination. The history of hor­ticulture has been a story of this process. It is one thing to send the fruit or tea or spices from a faraway land, but another to send the plant itself—or, better yet, the seeds—in order to provide a continuous supply of the material. Where it simply wasn’t practical in the past to send the plant or fruit (forcing us to send seeds instead), now, it’s getting more and more costly to send the product than the recipe. Of course, it’s also less sustainable to do so.

Email is another good example of infor­mationalization.