They Should Have Named it "Earth Bang"

A new magazine from SciAm has the title “Earth 3.0″…

The article that introduces the name and talks about the meaning of “Earth 3.0” follows many of the patterns of introducing a new X.0 modifier. Those patterns as defined in my post on O’Reilly News are:

  • Appeal to anonymous general sentiment that a “new” movement is building.
  • Speak of the new movement as one that is emerging.
  • Introduce the movement as a realization of egalitarian ideals.

When a new “3.0” name is coined, there is a fourth pattern which emerges… the need define the previous two “versions” of a particular area of interest. John Rennie defines Earth 1.0 as Earth pre-industrial revolution, Earth 2.0 as Earth since the dawn of industry, and Earth 3.0 as an emerging “new way” which has both the sustainability of Earth 1.0 and the progress of Earth 2.0.

The issue with modifying something with the “3.0” name is the conceptual overhead implied. Not only does a potential reader need to recognize the implied meaning of Earth 3.0, they have to understand that you are taking the opportunity to define not only a Earth 2.0 which represents our current, industrialized approach…. you are defining an Earth 1.0 to refer to a sustainable prehistory.

The other big issue with using version numbers as a shorthand for something this important is that (as in software) a version has a limited lifespan. A term like Earth 3.0 only retains its value if you believe that we are living on or near the transition from Earth 2.0 to Earth 3.0. For the magazine and the brand to remain fresh, you’ll have to constantly remind people what Earth 3.0 is, how it is still emerging, and what still needs to be done to realize the egalitarian ideals of Earth 3.0. Any “2.0”, “3.0”, “4.0” requires a constant effort to remind people that your “dot oh” is still relevant. A few months after “Earth 3.0”, we should expect articles asking us is “Earth 3.0 is still relevant?”… the higher the number in your “dot oh” that faster the turnaround and the higher the implied overhead.

Naming issues aside, the idea for the magazine is a good one, we need a magazine that focuses on sustainability, no doubt. What troubles me here is the miscalculated attempt to coin a new moniker for the sustainability movement. You can see what they are trying to do here, they want people to start saying things like, “Now, that isn’t very Earth 3.0.” Or, “Really, we’ve got to do a better job thinking about the environment, we have to be more Earth 3.0.” It comes off sounding silly and forced.

The question that needs to be asked is, “Why the minor release version?” Why bother to keep the decimal point here? Why not just “Earth 3” How about “Earth Remixed” or “Earth 2009”? Earth 3.0 suggests an Earth 3.1. They should’ve called it “Earth times e to the t over tau”, I’d by a magazine with that title. Maybe “Earth!” (meaning the product of all values of Earth from Earth to zero, pronouced “Earth Bang”).