Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What is the mission?
  2. Who wants this? Why?
  3. Who is served? Whose "ox is gored"?
  4. What is the product? or service?
  5. How does it work? How does a user make it work?
  6. Who creates the data?
  7. How is it authenticated? tested? ...maintained?
  8. How do data sets (layers) interrelate?
  9. What is the data I/O protocol?
  10. Who defines that?
  11. Where is it hosted?
  12. What does it cost? Who pays?
  13. What remains to be done?
  14. Who will do what?
  15. What is the next step?
  16. What can we do now?

What is the mission?

The mission of the Earthship Dashboard is to make the future geographical consequences of our present actions more visible and comprehensible, so we can act more rationally with respect to them. [Back To TOP]

Who wants this? Why?

Who wants FGIS?

Anyone who wants to live in the 21st century wants to understand how to preserve and enhance to ecosystems upon which we depend. This is especially true for those who have children and grandchildren.


Earthship Dashboard is a way to see vividly and graphically the outcomes on the landscape of choices we make today. This helps us make informed choices in our personal lives, and in political issues. [Back To TOP]

Who is served? Whose "ox is gored"?

All humans and all life on Earth are served.

Whose "ox is gored"? (Who is likely to be offended?)

Shortsighted owners of obsolete technology industries. [Back To TOP]

What is the product or service of Earthship Dashboard?

We offer a publicly readable geographic information system (GIS) that relates many professionally or academically produced datasets to each other in order to build dynamic models of the future of the Earth. Users can interact with the models by changing variables, representing the "what-ifs" of public policy, to see results spread over the next 100 years.
[Back To TOP]

How does it work? How does a user make it work?

How does the Dashboard work?

All around the planet are scientists who have data about the Earth. Their datasets are typically summarized in professional journals, but not published as complete datasets. We invite these scientists to make their data publicly accessible through our servers, while retaining control of the data itself. Then we collaboratively create an interface model that allows inputs and outputs to their data layer so that it can interact with other layers of information. We also create "knobs" (variables) the a user can "turn" to see the effects of the whole model of selected layers.

One benefit to the researchers is that they can showcase their work. Another is that they can see their work interacting with datasets/models of other scientists. A third is that the Dashboard as whole is a research tool itself.

How does a user make use of it?

A user can choose a group of information layers to look at, and select variables to modify, "knobs to twist", to see results in 20 five-year steps out to 100 years hence. Each layer will contain information for the whole planet on one dimension, say for example, water use or forest cover. Different assumptions, even different world views, may be inherent in the different layers chosen and the inputs and outputs used.

So a choice of models to set in motion and a choice of values to enter in each variable will both affect the resulting maps displayed. The user will be interacting with professionally managed planet-wide data models using his/her own web browser. The data itself is unaffected, but the presentation of the results is controlled by the models used, the data layers used, and the inputs made. [Back To TOP]

Who creates the data?

Professional researchers and academic scientists create the data in the course of their studies. [Back To TOP]

How is it authenticated? tested? ...maintained?

How is it authenticated?

The data is authenticated by a digitally encrypted signature in the data file. The names of the authors will show in the headers of the data layers and be reflected in dialog boxes responding to user queries.


It is tested in a peer review process similar to that in use by academic journals.


It is maintained by the authors in the normal course of their work. Since the Dashboard only mirrors their original data stored on their servers, any updates they make are instantly reflected on the Dashboard's corresponding layer.
[Back To TOP]

How do data sets (layers) interrelate?

Most layers will have inputs and outputs. Certain layers will have their inputs and outputs connected, often by the user's choice, sometimes by the authors' choice. Where the choice has been made by an author, it will always be a choice of inputs to his/her/their own layer. Outputs are on offer to the system, but their use is not determined by the author of that layer.

For example, ecological communities on a mountain slope are strongly distributed according to temperature, with cooler communities higher than warm ones. As temperatures rise, the communities do too. If average local climate temperatures are connected as an input to population distribution of species on the mountain (involving at least two separate layers), then playing the global warming script forward would show concentric rings of species climbing the mountain, and the central (highest) group would shrink and/or disappear.

Zoom, pan, and time "knobs" for the FGIS presentation will synchronously affect all layers displayed, so the layers always retain a point to point correspondence as maps in time and space. [Back To TOP]

What is the data I/O protocol?

Certain standards of measurement must obtain if the connections between data sets are to be meaningful. Some of these apply to volume, weight, distance, spatial resolution, temperature, velocity, etc. -- all the usual physical dimensions. Probably the easiest solution is to make everything metric, but this will be decided by the community of contributors.

Other dimensions of data will be more biological, or methodological, affecting such matters as population samples, resolution and depth of data, frequency of measurements, taxonomic choices, statistical area boundaries, etc.

The speed of data transmission is likely to be subject to standards.

The method of spatial data management may be raster based or vector based, but it must either be consistent or be piped through appropriate translators.

Conflicts in other dimensions of data will be discovered and resolved by the community, as well. A committee will be formed to propose draft resolutions to these conflicts, in the light of communications from the whole community. [Back To TOP]

Who defines that?

The dashboard research community will define the input and output protocol, and the data formats supported. A committee of GIS-proficient participants will accept community preferences and generate standards for the system. [Back To TOP]

Where is it hosted?

The geographic data will be hosted at three or six server farms around the world. These GIS hosts will mirror data held by their originating institutions.

The web servers will be much more widespread, perhaps a few hundred of them. The web servers will draw data from the GIS hosts and cache it on the basis of use frequency.

In terms of access permissions, there will be at least three classes of participants: users, web admins, and sys admins.

Users will access only the web servers, and only through the Dashboard application interface.

Web Administrators will manage the web servers. They may even supply them in a participation structure similar to the efforts to aggregate surplus computing power for public purposes -- watching for ET signals, hunting for disease cures, etc.

Data System Administrators will access the GIS hosts from anywhere, but the GIS hosts will be owned and operated by the Earthship Dashboard Network.

Geographic data suppliers (researchers) will retain their data on their own servers, allowing Dashboard administrators read-access to data and models that are posted by the suppliers in a directory dedicated to the purpose. [Back To TOP]

What does it cost? Who pays?

What does it cost? Who pays?

At first, the Dashboard will need in-kind support, volunteers, and funding. Once the "net effect" kicks in (a critical mass of data is acquired), a social venture model will be used. See Wikipedia on Social Enterprise.

No one will pay to access the Dashboard through the web interface. Playing with the data models is free.

Some businesses may hire experienced GIS workers to prepare maps and reports for specific projects. In those cases some of the profits will be paid to the Earthship Dashboard Network. Earthship Dashboard will use a ".com" site to provide this interface, while the ".net" sibling will host non-paid activities. [Back To TOP]

What remains to be done?

At this point all steps in the Next Steps page remain to be done. This web site is the beginning. [Back To TOP]

Who will do what?

A core group of volunteers is creating the web site and making plans. Once that group reaches a working scale, say a dozen people, we will determine the distribution of responsibilites, and we will create a working demo web site and a team as described in steps one and two on the Next Steps page. [Back To TOP]

What is the next step?

As of this writing, the next step is to build the core team. [Back To TOP]

What can we do now?

Write to us. Tell us what you think. Tell us how you would like to participate. Pass a link to this site to anyone you think should hear about this project. Send us your email address to be kept in the loop. [Back To TOP]

Return to Home Page