LIMITS 2020

Sixth Workshop on Computing within Limits
Distributed Workshop: USC, Los Angeles & University of Bristol, UK
21-22 June 2020

About LIMITS 2020

The LIMITS workshop concerns the role of computing in a human society affected by real-world limits (ecological or otherwise). We seek to reshape the computing research agenda as these topics are seldom discussed in contemporary computing research. LIMITS 2020 solicits papers looking ahead to 2030, as described below.

This year, LIMITS will be a distributed workshop between USC (Los Angeles, California) and University of Bristol (UK). All main sessions will be held in parallel (morning in Los Angeles, evening in Bristol), with local events in addition to these main sessions. LIMITS in the UK will be co-located with ICT4S in Bristol, UK.



Call For Papers

LIMITS 2020 aims to reach computing researchers outside of the LIMITS community who might ask: "what does research in a LIMITS future look like?" Suppose the ideas of LIMITS have diffused throughout both computing research and broader society, such that LIMITS 2030, ten years from now, need not exist as a separate venue. What would researchers and engineers be building in that future world? To reach this audience, we solicit papers on "future systems". This year we specifically discourage "critical", "analysis", and similar types of papers.

A future systems paper concerns the design, implementation, and/or evaluation of a real tool, socio-technical system, or any other artifact situated in a future (year 2030) world. Such contributions would be of a flavor that could be imagined to be published in a more applied venue of computing (e.g., UIST for HCI researchers, NSDI for networked systems researchers, etc.). That is, if the researchers from more-applied, less-critical areas of computing were to shift their topics of interest to align with this envisioned world of 2030, what would they build? Empirical evaluation is strongly encouraged; papers without an empirical evaluation are acceptable if they provide substantial evidence regarding the practical usefulness of the future system(s) described.

We look to a classic vision outlined by Donella Meadows for the future world of 2030 papers should be placed within. That is, authors should imagine that one or more of the economic, societal, business, energy, and other changes that Meadows describes here are already coming into being, but require computing to help them take shape:

A sustainable world can never be fully realised until it is widely envisioned...:
  • Sustainability, efficiency, sufficiency, equity, beauty, and community as the highest social values.
  • Material sufficiency and security for all. Therefore, by individual choice as well as communal norms, low birth rates and stable populations.
  • Work that dignifies people instead of demeaning them. Some way of providing incentives for people to give their best to society and to be rewarded for doing so, while ensuring that everyone will be provided for sufficiently under any circumstances.
  • Leaders who are honest, respectful, intelligent, humble, and more interested in doing their jobs than in keeping their jobs, more interested in serving society than in winning elections.
  • An economy that is a means, not an end, one that serves the welfare of the environment, rather than vice versa.
  • Efficient, renewable energy systems.
  • Efficient, closed-loop materials systems.
  • Technical design that reduces emissions and waste to a minimum, and social agreement not to produce emissions or waste that technology and nature can’t handle.
  • Regenerative agriculture that builds soils, uses natural mechanisms to restore nutrients and control pests, and produces abundant, uncontaminated food.
  • The preservation of ecosystems in their variety, with human cultures living in harmony with those ecosystems; therefore, high diversity of both nature and culture, and human appreciation for that diversity.
  • Flexibility, innovation (social as well as technical), and intellectual challenge. A flourishing of science, a continuous enlargement of human knowledge.
  • Greater understanding of whole systems as an essential part of each person's education.
  • Decentralization of economic power, political influence, and scientific expertise.
  • Political structures that permit a balance between short-term and long-term considerations; some way of exerting political pressure now on behalf of our grandchildren.
  • High-level skills on the part of citizens and governments in the arts of nonviolent conflict resolution.
  • Media that reflect the world's diversity and at the same time unite cultures with relevant, accurate, timely, unbiased, and intelligent information, presented in its historic and whole-system context.
  • Reasons for living and for thinking well of ourselves that do not involve the accumulation of material things.

Meadows continues:

Here are some common biases and simplifications, verbal traps, and popular untruths...:

Not: A warning about the future is a prediction of doom.
But: A warning about the future is a recommendation to follow a different path.

Not: The environment is a luxury or a competing demand or a commodity that people will buy when they can afford it.
But: The environment is the source of all life and every economy. Opinion polls typically show that the public is willing to pay more for a healthy environment.

Not: Change is sacrifice, and it should be avoided.
But: Change is challenge, and it is necessary.

Not: Stopping growth will lock the poor in their poverty.
But: It is the avarice and indifference of the rich that lock the poor into poverty. The poor need new attitudes among the rich; then there will be growth specifically geared to serve their needs.

Not: Everyone should be brought up to the material level of the richest countries.
But: There is no possibility of raising material consumption levels for everyone to the levels now enjoyed by the rich. Everyone should have their fundamental material needs satisfied. Material needs beyond this level should be satisfied only if it is possible, for all, within a sustainable ecological footprint.

Not: All growth is good, without question, discrimination, or investigation.
Nor: All growth is bad.
But: What is needed is not growth, but development. Insofar as development requires physical expansion, it should be equitable, affordable, and sustainable, with all real costs counted.

Not: Technology will solve all problems.
Nor: Technology does nothing but cause problems.
But: We need to encourage technologies that will reduce the ecological footprint, increase efficiency, enhance resources, improve signals, and end material deprivation.
And: We must approach our problems as human beings and bring more to bear on them than just technology.

Not: The market system will automatically bring us the future we want.
But: We must decide for ourselves what future we want. Then we can use the market system, along with many other organizational devices, to achieve it.

Not: Industry is the cause of all problems, or the cure.
Nor: Government is the cause or the cure.
Nor: Environmentalists are the cause or the cure.
Nor: Any other group [economists come to mind] is the cause or the cure.
But: All people and institutions play their role within the large system structure. In a system that is structured for overshoot, all players deliberately or inadvertently contribute to that overshoot. In a system that is structured for sustainability, industries, governments, environmentalists, and most especially economists will play essential roles in contributing to sustainability.

Not: Unrelieved pessimism.
Nor: Sappy optimism.
But: The resolve to tell the truth about both the successes and failures of the present and the potentials and obstacles in the future.
And above all: The courage to admit and bear the pain of the present, while keeping a steady eye on a vision of a better future.

Not: The World3 model, or any other model, is right or wrong.
But: All models, including the ones in our heads, are a little right, much too simple, and mostly wrong. How do we proceed in such a way as to test our models and learn where they are right and wrong? How do we speak to each other as fellow modelers with an appropriate mixture of skepticism and respect? How do we stop playing right-wrong games with each other and start designing right-wrong tests for our models against the real world?

(From: Limits to Growth: the 30-year Update, Chapter 8: Tools for the Transition to Sustainability)

Important Dates

Abstract registration deadline: March 6, 2020, 11:59pm Pacific Time
Paper submission deadline: March 20, 2020, 11:59pm Pacific Time
Paper reviews available: April 10, 2020
Camera ready deadline: May 15, 2020

Submissions

Submit papers at this site (submissions will open two weeks before abstract deadline). (If you have any issues with the submission site, please email barathra@usc.edu.)

Papers should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Papers should be in ACM double-column format, using the most recent template (updated in 2019)
  • The main body text should use 9pt font.
  • The body of the paper should be a minimum of 5 pages and a maximum of 10 pages, with an unlimited number of pages allowed for references.

Reviewing will be non-blind; authors should include their names and contact information and reviews will include reviewer names.

Organizers

Program Committee

Oliver Bates, Lancaster University, o.bates@lancaster.ac.uk (co-chair)
Eli Blevis, Indiana University, eblevis@indiana.edu
Jay Chen, New York University - Abu Dhabi, jchen@cs.nyu.edu
Elina Eriksson, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, elina@kth.se
Kurtis Heimerl, University of Washington, kheimerl@cs.washington.edu
Lara Houston, Goldsmiths, University of London, lara@larahouston.co.uk
Ann Light, University of Sussex, ann.light@sussex.ac.uk
Samuel Mann, Otago Polytechnic, samuel.mann@op.ac.nz
Bonnie Nardi, University of California - Irvine, nardi@ics.uci.edu
Lisa Nathan, University of British Columbia, lisa.nathan@ubc.ca
Teresa Cerratto Pargman, Stockholm University, tessy@dsv.su.se
Birgit Penzenstadler, California State University - Long Beach, bpenzens@gmail.com
Barath Raghavan, USC, barath.raghavan@usc.edu (co-chair)
Christian Remy, Aarhus University, jc.remy@gmail.com
Douglas Schuler, Evergreen State College, douglas@publicsphereproject.org
Bill Tomlinson, University of California - Irvine, wmt@ics.uci.edu

Steering Committee

Bonnie Nardi, UC Irvine
Barath Raghavan, USC
Karla Carter (ACM SIGCAS chair), Bellevue University