Note — Oct 04, 2020

The Green Taming of the Smart Shrew: Coupling Digital with the Environment

As I mentioned in the intro, this piece is imperfect, it almost entirely abstracts neoliberalism and the business models of the technology companies mentioned. In my view, you can’t talk about self-driving cars as an interesting service removing ownership and making for fewer cars, without also mentioning that in the current model they actually pollute more and that the only way they could work is as one publicly-owned fleet integrated in public transit.

The piece is in here nonetheless because it’s true that information and communications technology (ICT) is part of many solutions and greens can’t just disregard technology because of the current malfeasance of multiple companies. I also found interesting the notion that as more and more physical products turn into accessed services, the products leased will need to be better built since they will now be part of the assets of these organisations, not consumer products meant to be replaced. But again, that works overall only if platforms don’t multiply and compete on low prices with no sustainable business model, as did the VC backed share-bikes for example. (I’d also link to Degrowth and MMT: A thought experiment again and suggest viewing the taming piece above within the vision of degrowth and MMT.)

But the energy and materials-intensive model based on the mass production revolution has made us pay an exorbitant price in a dramatic increase of natural catastrophes and environmental destruction as well as in resource depletion. […]

[W]ind or solar power, interactive smart grids, the controls of all renewable energy (as well as their design and manufacture): all depend on ICTs. The computer-aided provision of water, nutrients and light is enabling hydroponic cultures around cities, supplying fresh vegetables and reducing long-distance transportation, energy consumption, canning and freezing. […]

We could be setting up a rental market of extremely high quality durable products, built with the best materials, that last as long as a century. Cutting edge appliances or machines, can have a long life cycle of permanent maintenance, upgrades, updates, repairs and final disassembly for reusing and recycling.