I finished reading World Wide Waste by Gerry McGovern. I'd consider it essential reading for anyone working with computers!
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"
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 I'm all for taking every measure we can!
And I'm glad serverfarms are so efficient, but that won't stop me from discouraging their use. It will however encourage me to recommend Microsoft or Google (or my local Catalyst Cloud) clouds over Amazon's.
@alcinnz Well I don't know anything about AWS's efficiency. I only know anything about AWS from a user standpoint.
Don't get me wrong; the centralization makes me really uncomfortable, and I'm happy to spend energy/money/etc to move more control back into people's hands.
@alcinnz Ah, ok. I probably saw that. I remember being quite floored when Greenpeace started saying positive things about Google and Facebook. But it also gave me a lot more respect for them, since they were willing to actually say when a company had made substantial improvements.
There were certainly plenty of cynics at both Facebook and Google, but most of us really believed in actually making the datacenters green.
@alcinnz (The main things that made me not have respect for Greenpeace were their opposition to nuclear power, which in my view was necessary for going carbon-free though I have since changed my mind, but they were still wrong before the economics of solar really changed) and the dishonesty of their "Kleercut" campaign against Kimberly-Clark which talked about them clearcutting "in old-growth forests", when they were only cutting trees they'd planted themselves.
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