Cartoon of a cave drawing exhibiting a plan to take a rock and move it to a destination.

Much of our existence as a species can be summed up as a grand exercise of picking things up and carrying them around. Indeed, this exercise continues. As our culture evolves, we develop new ways of orchestrating who picks up what, when they do it and where they move it to. We can trace this behaviour back as far as we wish — the pyramids, the plains of Africa, the primordial ooze. Today our lift-and-carry game takes the form of packing transistors into a space the width of a human hair, sending robots to Mars or piggybacking medical supplies into shipments of soft drinks.

When we recognize patterns in our game, it becomes possible to cheat. Instead of the boring old routine, we do something wildly counterintuitive. We make or adapt structures — social, technological, etc. — that do the rote work for us, so we can move on to bigger, better, newer and stranger things. This enterprise, our civilization, thus demands choreography of terrifying precision.

Excepting the fringes I mentioned above, we have most of the problems of lifting and moving physical stuff licked. We also largely understand how to coordinate people arriving at extremely precise locations and times to pick up extremely specific things and carry them to extremely specific places. This has created a state of abundance and availability that puts unprecedented power at everybody's fingertips — from Average Joe to CEO. It has also increased the impact and side effects of every decision we make, which grow in number and variety every day. The most important question of our age is the one of effective deployment of resources. It is a question that ultimately reduces to what should I do with all this stuff?

In essence, that's the question I'm here to help answer.