Web-based business are moving increasingly to solutions that provide elastic resources. The idea is that there are more than enough resources to go around at any given moment (hard drives, processors, memory, cooling, bandwidth, power), so we should be sharing them. When one website is barely getting any traffic in the middle of the night, shuffle some of their compute power to handle web requests for a different site on the other side of the world. This is so clearly a good idea for most web-businesses, but unfortunately it’s hard to translate it to less virtual resources.

We need elastic everything, not just compute resources like Amazon’s EC2. I want to see more real-world spaces going elastic.

When was the last time you were at a movie theater in the middle of a weekday? Did you have to fight anyone else for seats? Do you think that the movie theater would really prefer to keep that giant facility open all day if they had a better option? When was the last time you were at the office on a Saturday afternoon? Did you have to wait in line at the coffee machine?

Imagine a building which transforms. During the day, it’s an office space. Then at night and on the weekends, the walls slide back, seats fold up from the floor replacing desks, and the space can be used for a movie theater.

Some cities have tried to do this with highways. During morning rush-hour, an highway may have 5 inbound lanes and 3 outbound ones. 8 hours later, the highway will be repurposed for 5 outbound lanes to handle the commuters now heading home in the afternoon rush after work. But no one yet has figured out what to do with all that extra highway capacity in the hours in between, or overnight, when millions of miles of empty highway sit unused, a resource that is distinctly unelastic.