Towards A Nonlinear Economy

Humans design things, we build systems with the available resources, scientific knowledge and engineering know-how to make our lives better. We experiment test ideas and options keeping the ones that work. That is how our modern economy has developed, how it has evolved. In a world of abundance we created an economy designed to maximize input and throughput of resources in a linear process. We spend so much energy on taking things out of the earth, processing them, distributing them, marketing stuff, selling stuff, buying stuff, stuff breaks and we throw it away.

But those conditions that created our modern economy are no more. The once seeming infinite abundance of natural resources has become finite, our scientific and engineering knowledge has also developed. A fundamental challenge to long-term global economic development is the set of negative environmental consequences related to the linear model. But today economies are built to grow, they stay together because of growth. How can we build an economy that uncouples growth from physical consumption? That de-materializes our economy.

The circular economy is much more than just recycling it is a new economic paradigm that will reshape all natural resource intensive industries in the decades to come. It is a shift in business model and opportunities from the production of things to the connects between those things. A shift from greater linear throughput to greater nonlinear connections between processes in order to close loops and build systems. These links and their consequences are taken into consideration at all times to build economic systems that harness their complexity.

The shift to a circular economy requires innovative new business models that either replace existing ones or seize new opportunities. Instead of building business models on products these new businesses will be build on interconnected systems. By connecting resource processes into complex systems where in they can be cycled to be used without being used up. The circular economy is an opportunity to rebuild our economy but to do so will require thinking differently, it requires designing and building complex systems.