The ideas behind dMASS have been in the works for a long time.  But this was a big year: we launched dMASS.net! Some fundamental concepts

dMASS is rooted in some very fundamental concepts, including the principles of adaptation.  Most human activity, notably economic activity, is the result of our adaptive drives.  The fact that many activities turn out to be ineffective or even self-destructive (non-adaptive) doesn't invalidate the assertion that ultimately we do things to survive.   Adaptation, after all, is about increasing the odds of survival; preserving health, reducing threats and risks, and increasing options.

We use material resources (characterized as mass) to make tools that serve useful functions.  By tools, I mean houses and cars, cups and stoves, medicines and medical instruments, lights and plumbing - anything that helps us create wealth.  Wealth is not the resources or things, but rather the capabilities that result from using specific tools or products.  Wealth, like adaptation, is ultimately about enhancing security, health, and well-being. 

Economists describe the tools we use to create wealth as products that companies produce and people consume.  Yet we know from physics that we can neither produce nor consume anything.  When we make things, what we really are doing is rearranging our environment in hopefully preferred ways.  We’re like birds building nests, but on a grander scale.  What we call pollution is really valuable resources that got lost in the process and end up where they are counterproductive (wealth-diminishing).  Pollution is resources we could have used to create more wealth if we were better at our environment rearranging, if we were better at applying our knowledge of how nature works to economic activity.

In spite of our now unsustainable rate of resource processing, we have been learning how to do better with less, to get more function out of each ton of resource mass.   We have gotten better at rearranging.  That's why, in spite of an exploding population, a much larger portion of humanity is benefiting from our modern economy than was possible even a few decades ago.   But we’ve often done this unintentionally with other goals and assumptions in mind.   In the last decade, we’ve begun to see more innovative design of tools and buildings explicitly intended to do better with less.

dMASS as umbrella and catalyst

dMASS is an umbrella concept.  Things like biomimicry, lightweighting, dematerialization, disintermediation, energy harvesting, cradle-to-cradle design, collaborative consumption, green architecture, and waste recovery (mining above grade) all fit within the framework of dMASS.  It’s no coincidence that these ideas and methods are emerging now with such vigor.  Today, with an almost unimaginably large and growing population along with rising standards of living, there’s an increasing recognition that from now on, the way we use resources matters.

dMASS is the common thread among these ideas and it advances them.  We need to deliver drastically more benefits to people using the least amount of resources possible, and we have to do it quickly and in every corner of our economy - in every product, service, and activity.  dMASS shifts the focus to function, to understanding the benefits that products or services deliver and then figuring out how to deliver needed benefits with little or no mass.  There is tremendous business potential for those who are able to apply dMASS on a larger and more transformative scale.

Helping designers, architects, business leaders and others understand this need and figure out how to do better with less is what dMASS.net is about.  We started this blog in early fall.  We laid some groundwork, talking about wealth, our environmental context, metrics, natural laws, the difference between efficiency and performance, and the danger of failing to understand the interconnectedness of our problems.  We also wanted to give practical examples and show dMASS in action, so we’ve highlighted innovative mass-reducing products and new technologies, as well process changes that make it easier to deliver more function with less mass.

Of course, the revolutionary ideas are not yet here.  That’s where you come in.  Whether you nurture innovation at your company, demand changes as a customer, or design new tools yourself, you are part of the movement that will shift our system towards dMASS, creating more wealth and a secure future.

What to look for next year

We will release our first video in early 2011!  In a fun and engaging animation, the video demonstrates the relationship between wealth, resources, design, and dMASS.

We are also entering the Davos Debates challenge.  In January, we’ll post a brief video summarizing why dMASS is the path to inclusive and sustainable growth.

Now that we’re up and running, we’re hoping to find more time to reach out and connect with others working toward the same goals.  We look forward to talking with you and we wish you the best in the New Year.

P.S. Don't forget to connect with us on Twitter @dmass_net

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