I finished reading World Wide Waste by Gerry McGovern. I'd consider it essential reading for anyone working with computers!

gerrymcgovern.com/books/world-

It's well cited (though I still need to check those citations) & uses maths effectively to make it's point.

That computers + (surveillance) capitalism is actually worse for the environment than the predigital era. That we can and must move slow and fix things, and fund that vital work directly.

Don't get me wrong, computers can absolutely help us regain our environmental efficiency. They just *aren't*.

Not as long as we're:
* constantly syncing everything to the cloud,
* expecting same-hour delivery,
* funding our clickbait via surveillance advertising,
* buying a new phone every year,
* using AIs because they're cool rather than useful,
* running bloated software & webpages,
* buying into "big data"
* etc

Computing is environmentally cheap, but it rapidly adds up!

@alcinnz I do find it interesting that even as it has become cheaper and more efficient than ever to have local storage and computation, we're centralizing it more and more heavily.

But I think Rob Pike had a point when he said he wants no local storage anywhere near him except maybe caches. Managing redundancy and backups is *hard*. And any p2p storage system that a) I would trust and b) mere mortals could be comfortable with, may not be very efficient energy-wise.

@alcinnz Large datacenters are incredibly efficient, energy-wise, not just because the bigger processors are more efficient but because when you have that much to work with in terms of workload, you can engage in a lot of neat tricks like shutting off unused machines or running batch workloads in the unused capacity. And with the PCIe fabrics the datacenters are deploying now, you can even do the same tricks with individual cards.

@alcinnz I have yet to see anything about datacenter energy consumption that actually compares it to some actual alternative. They always compare it to some other activity, probably cherry-picked to be as shocking as possible.

I totally agree on instant gratification shipping thing, though even there it's not like they're achieving it with a lot more miles. A lot of that is being done with improvements in logistics using... computers!

@alcinnz I think that it would make a lot more sense to focus on the point of actual ecological damage rather than the consumer end of things. In particular, we desperately need a substantial carbon tax. Even if it's revenue neutral, we'd rapidly see what's really important to people.

@freakazoid The book I was citing there took the approach of performing the comparisons on a global rather than individual basis, and computing how many trees we'd need to plant.

The central point being that computing is environmentally cheap but rapidly adds up. That we can and must do better.

Shipping is an interesting case, showing how computers can help us be more efficient. But computing/instant-gratification can also encourage to be less.

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@alcinnz I think that looking at specific things that could be improved is exactly the right approach. Otherwise you're in the land of unfalsifiable claims, because we don't actually know what would happen if we just shut off the Internet or any given service.

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@freakazoid Absolutely. Efficient computing ultimately comes down to the fuzzy field of usecases.

That's *one* reason I want people to be funding quality work directly, rather than fund clickbait via surveillance advertising.

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