Caloric energy is precious

1 minute read

How many individual electric motors are part of your daily life? Count your electric toothbrush, air conditioner, blow dryer, refrigerator, washing machine. Count the tiny motors that control the focus and zoom of your phone camera.

A modern car has at least thirty motors powering windshield wipers, electric windows, side mirrors, and various fans.

To read this essay you accessed a server. It’s in a data center containing thousands of motors. In the break room there’s a coffee maker that one of the employees used this morning before they returned to fixing a malfunctioning rack of servers so that this website can stay online.

Every loaf of bread you buy is the culmination of thousands of motors. Planting seeds, harvesting, milling, packaging, kneading, baking, carrying, and maintaining the wellbeing of everyone along the way.

Your lifestyle is possible because millions of motors, big and small, make things easy for you and the people who produce the things you use.

Before motors there were muscles. People, horses, oxen. Anything that needed to be moved required food to be consumed, digested, converted to caloric energy. To do our bidding we drafted the mouths, stomachs, intestines, and hearts of millions of living creatures.

The world before motors was a world of suffering.

The brain, like arms and legs, consumes caloric energy. Before computers, computer was an occupation. Humans were employed to compute. We asked these humans to eat food, so they could power brains, so they could run mathematical calculations, so that… so that…

Now we harvest energy from the sun, the wind, the tides, and the earth. We use electric energy instead of caloric energy to move atoms and compute bits.

The things that only calories can do are becoming fewer. We choose to delegate more of the caloric work to the electric muscle and brain.

The caloric world is beautiful. We choose to freely live in the caloric world. We enjoy hand-kneaded artisanal bread. We enjoy running through the woods to work off those calories, mostly.

Electric energy gives us the power to make things that no muscles were ever tireless enough to make. That no brains were tireless enough to compute.

Electric energy gives us the freedom to choose how we use caloric energy, because caloric energy is precious.