Note — Sep 22, 2019

To Decarbonize We Must Decomputerize: Why We Need a Luddite Revolution

Excellent piece on the impact of computation on emissions and climate collapse. Interestingly, also framed as a Luddite viewpoint while centering on common good; there’s no need to cut all tech, just making decisions on what is actually needed and good for society, instead of the current focus on computerizing everything to get ever more data for the AIs, and the riches some are hoping to extract from it.

Computation encircles us as a layer, dense and interconnected. If our parents and our grandparents lived with computers, we live inside them. […]

Training models isn’t the only way ML contributes to the cooking of our planet. It has also stimulated a hunger for data that is probably the single biggest driver of the digitization of everything. Corporations and governments now have an incentive to acquire as much data as possible, because that data, with the help of ML, might yield valuable patterns. […]

We should reject the assumption that our built environment must become one big computer. We should erect barriers against the spread of “smartness” into all of the spaces of our lives. […]

In 1812, a group of Yorkshire Luddites sent a factory owner a letter promising continued action until “the House of Commons passes an Act to put down all Machinery hurtful to Commonality” […]

Decomputerization doesn’t mean no computers. It means that not all spheres of life should be rendered into data and computed upon. Ubiquitous “smartness” largely serves to enrich and empower the few at the expense of the many, while inflicting ecological harm that will threaten the survival and flourishing of billions of people.

More: Good recommendations for further reading in this thread by David Golumbia.