Build I.T. and They Will Come

When Adam Wierman joined Caltech’s faculty in 2007, he set out to find a new challenge. “I wanted to do something about a problem of fundamental importance,” he says. “Climate is the problem.” To help clean up computing, he decided to design new algorithms for the management of data centers, communication networks, and our power grid. He hoped to find ways to improve the energy efficiency of I.T. infrastructure. But these efforts lead to Jevons paradox—a variation of “If you build it, they will come.” Economist William Jevons wrote in 1865, “It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption.” In other words, as people like Wierman make computing and the grid more efficient, we use more, out-spending the savings. [Breakthrough story]

CMS Adam Wierman