Jon Udell writes:
Here is an example of the sort of problem Jon thinks we can address:
We need robust explorable explanations that state assumptions, link to supporting data, and assemble context that enables us to cross-check assumptions and evaluate consequences.
And we need them everywhere, for everything. Consider, for example, the current debate about fracking. We’re having this conversation because, as Daniel Yergin explains in The Quest, a natural gas revolution has gotten underway pretty recently. There’s a lot of more of it available than was thought, particularly in North America, and we can recover it and burn it a lot more cleanly than the coal that generates so much of our electric power. Are there tradeoffs? Of course, There are always tradeoffs. What cripples us is our inability to evaluate them. We isolate every issue, and then polarize it. Economist Ed Dolan writes
These anti-frackers have a simple solution: ban it.
The pro-frackers, too, have a simple solution: get the government out of the way and drill baby, drill.
The environmental impacts of fracking are a real problem, but one to which neither prohibition nor laissez faire seems a sensible solution. Instead, we should look toward mitigation of impacts using economic tools that have been applied successfully in the case of other environmental harms.
In order to do that, we’ve got to be able to put people in both camps in front of an explorable explanation with a slider that varies how much natural gas we choose to produce, linked to other sliders that vary what we pay, in dollars, lives, and environmental impact, not only for fracking but also for coal production and use, for Middle East wars, and so on.
Whatever your position on mapping discussions and dialogues, you will find this an interesting essay.
Jon points to other resources by Bret Victor:
Explorable Explanations (essay)
Ten Brighter Ideas (demo for Explorable Explanations)
MagicInk (book length essay, 2006)