Friday, October 2, 2009

Thoughts on Power

What's more important, sheer power, or complexity of use? I'd argue the latter almost every time. It's brute force versus planned attack. Consider a bolt of lightning and the human brain. In sheer voltage, wattage, size and destructive power the lightning seems the clear winner. And in the first three I think you'd be right (considering the last, look at the nuclear weapons.) But lightning, while a massive expression of electrical power, is brief. The human brain lasts much longer. It's a slow burn expression of electrical complexity.

An average bolt of lightning delivers 65 million volts of power and roughly one terawatt (1012 W), or one trillion watts of energy in a scorching 30 microsecond burst. The human brain consumes roughly 20 watts of power every second, or 1,728,000 watts a day. At that rate, the wattage contained in bolt of lightning could power a human brain for 1,585 years, far more than any of us will ever get the chance to use.

But look at what a human being can accomplish in under 100 years. Einstein. Gandhi. Darwin. Mozart. Etc, etc. The list is almost limitless. So less physical power is far more powerful when funneled into complex systems. One lightning bolt has the potential to change very little. 1,585 years worth of human generations can literally remake the world.

You also end up with the comedy stylings of Carrot Top, but you have to take the good with the bad.

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