The Environmental Issue

Internet DNA Podcast

How green is the internet or are we all looking at it through rose tinted spectacles. The dark side of digital profiling and how it can wipe out entire demographics, plus nuclear elephants and other happy thoughts.



(this transcription is written by robots… so don’t be surprised!)



hello. And welcome to this week's intimate meet Abby.


Pardon me dad. You know what? And it should really be with you, Dan and me, Abby. It's the DNA. But anyway, next week, this week we're gonna be talking about the environmental impact of the Internet.


Yeah. And how green it really is to begin with. It was all, it's really great. We're not using so much energy to drive here and drive there because we're getting one delivery that can go to lots of houses and there's a lot of things that we could do online. We didn't have to go to the post office. So there are lots of journeys and high energy impact things that we used to do that we don't have to do anymore. But there's always a flip side, isn't there? If you go, oh, I'm going to be really green by not using paper. And you use lots of plastic. Is the plastic actually any better?

Yeah. And all the rare precious metals that you use in computing.

So let's start with that. The festival. How much energy is the Internet using? We were talking last week about how much energy just mining for bitcoins used so much tendencies. The Internet itself use

well cause we were talking about, oh well you know, especially in global air travel because we can now do things like for the Internet. Yes. So our really interesting stat came out last year in 2018 that the internet data centers alone already have the same CO2 footprint as global air travel. So just the data sets is not everything else. Just storing the data of the Internet already produces the same CO2 levels as global air travel. It's a kind of a scary idea. But the Internet itself, I mean the best figure I found is it's 70 billion kilowatt hours a year to run the internet.

Well, I don't know what that means. How many elephants is that?

How many elephants? 70 billion kilowatts a year is the same as let's say 2% of America's total electricity usage.

Okay. That doesn't sound so bad.

It doesn't fit. You've got to understand that obviously America is an incredibly power hungry country and you're thinking, oh well what 2% of my electricity bill known, and then the 2% of America's electricity bill, and they have factories. So the electricity that America uses streetlights, you know, you've got to actually imagine they use an incredible amount of internet. So the average western person uses a bout 200 kilowatt hours of that. Let's look at it in a different way. A nuclear power station generates roughly 8 billion a year kilowatt hours. So you're talking eight, eight, nine nuclear power stations just to run the Internet,

eight or nine nuclear power stations to run the Internet. Yeah.

So run the internet maker a day. Yeah, whatever you know you'll need. If you just run running the Internet, you would need eight or nine nuclear power stations in order to drive it to run it.

Well, they're my elephants, Sarah, my elephants. Yeah. Oh my goodness. Okay. That's extraordinary. The 2% didn't do it for me, but the eight or nine nuclear elephants is quite extraordinary. And as you mentioned at the beginning, on top of that, it's all the mining for all the bits of chips. We need to go in all these electrical equipment to run the Internet as well. And that is minerals does it. Minerals,

I'm not going to know them, but there are very odd metals actually that they use in semiconductors and that sort of thing. I'm not at that level of knowledge to tell you which ones they are. But yeah, things like selenium, magnesium, titanium, you know, things that, well we run out. I mean like everything, they just get a lot more expensive. But I think really where we really see the greeting of the Internet is mobile phones who are a perfect example. You know, they're built to basically last three years and then, and then they're, you know, useless.

So there's another, that's another side, isn't it? A waste. Yeah. Computer waste

hardware, software. Cause as everything gets faster and more powerful than everybody has to catch up and their computers have to be faster and more powerful. And, and obviously companies build in a thing called inbuilt obsolescence. Apple have famous for this. So they make sure that when they release, I think it's every two ios is so like Magine it was iPhone nine they oddly called it 10 so iPhone six is now struggle with the latest oos and, and that's kind of purposeful.

I've got an iPhone six are you saying that it's that far out of date already? Oh my goodness, I only just got it. I like to hold onto my phones. [inaudible]

I mean, I think we're reaching a limit now where you can keep computers for much longer because there's so much more powerful than you need nowadays unless you're doing like video editing, Photoshop, illustrator, that kind of most people who are basically sitting on the internet doing emails and cat videos, they're fine. In fact, one of the things that I've done for my children is by old Mac book pros and just put an SSD in them and some ram and you know, they run

well, stay away from SSDs. Sort of a secret SSD dealer.

Well, no I'm not. Although I do have two on Ebay, the boom. But for me, they all have a secret sauce of secret sauce of computer speed. Yeah. You can make an old machine feel much new. A and therefore by being green, cause I'm recycling old macbook pros. No one really wanted cause they were too slow. And what about batteries then? They really got this. Our battery technology is a lot better and it's getting better. And is it greener? I mean batteries are inherently not green in their whole conception, but they are getting better. And what you have to understand is what would be the alternative to the Internet? Because let's say an emails now, a letter. Now you've got a van driving to deliver letters. Do you see what I mean? I don't think it's like a completely binary switch. The Internet often saves the world because basically you still have to do all those things. Probably in a less sustainable way.

Do we need to save all this data, all this information, all these data centers? Do we need this data?

Do we need it? No. Well who needs it? The people that turn us sell us things. Yeah. The people that want to own you, the Chinese government want it, that's for sure. Yeah. Yeah. And they want to know what you do. They want to, they want to give you different points depending on whether you're a good citizen or not. That's quite scary. Better News, isn't it? Yeah, but I think that's where we going. I mean I wrote to the article on information age is actually about this, which is you can call it marketing data, so I can call it surveillance. It doesn't really matter. There was a really odd, and I'm going to forget the number of, I think if you, if you've done something like 30 likes on Facebook, Facebook can probably profile you more accurately than your family members. And that's a scary, scary, scary kind of aggregated data plan thing.

But yeah, do we need it? If it all disappeared, what would go wrong? You'd probably have to find out what your bank was and that sort of stuff. But you know, a lot of this data is stuff like medical records. Yeah, you probably do need it. Your financial stuff, you probably do need it obviously that generating vast amounts of data Rodan, you and your behaviors and what you do. And you could argue do we need marketing? You know, it's part of business. So yes, I think we probably do need it. We probably don't need as much of it. And you could argue, I think that the Chinese scenario where you have one central store of everybody's data rather than the western way, which is everybody has their bit of data on you where we are probably getting replicated data over hundreds and hundreds of different companies but very science fiction or Georgia well to say, sorry you can't buy that plane

ticket cause you haven't, hey that parking ticket.

Hmm. That is the thing of the books. And so just coming to, you can't have this job because you don't have enough civilian credits, so you have to go and be a Luc cleaner until you can behave better as a good citizen. That's, it's great. You know, it's a little bit nosedive from Black Mirror. That kind of idea there. Obviously there are two sides to the argument. The Chinese say we want better citizens who are not being awkward. Civil Libertarians. Okay. What do you mean? I want to be awkward. That's my choice. Different approaches. The truth of it is is it's going to happen. The question is how do you regulate it? Because at the moment is pretty much on regulated. At what point does it turn into minority report? Yesterday you just fit a profile of someone who's probably going to kill someone one day. So we'll just look you up now whether you were going to or weren't going to, we don't know, but we're not going to take the chance. You fit a profile of the sort of person that might. So Chow Chow and then you tie that up with the Second World War and you can see where putting people in boxes where, I don't know, you can be quite bleak about it or not. You know? And that's a worldview question like we always get in.

Yeah, I think that is, it should be Internet CNA. Is it bleak or is it rosy?

Yeah, well this side, all life is perception. So it's how you choose to see it. I guess

whole life is perception. Let me see. I choose to see really rose tinted glasses. Everything is rosy.

Yeah, everything is rosy, but it's perception. You can see this as a terrible overlord knowing your every move or you can see it as people being bound into a civil contract to be better citizens. It doesn't have to have the evil overlord sitting on the topic could have a benevolent hood or sitting over the top and does it then be any different. It's the same thing but does the person at the top change and also there are always errors are there

and that's what all the Scifi films are about and your civil liberties people about what if the system made a mistake and said, Abby, you are rubbish citizen. You can't have a job and you certainly can't go on holiday. And I go, what? Why? What did I do? And there'd been an error in the system. But then they go, well now you're disputing it so we're going to put you to death. And I go, why? I didn't do anything. That's the issue with it. It's not the monster or the mouse sitting on.

Well also I think the ability, opps perception, as you said, of seeing things from different angles. So you're going to get quite deeply into politics if you go too much further down that line because it's really about loud too. On this program. You treat people as a group or do you treat people as individuals and that you're going to swing left. All right. Hey, explain a bit more treating people as a group. Okay, so that's left socialist. Yeah. And so yeah, the way treating people as individuals is right? Capitalist Libertarian. Yeah. Yeah. Libertarian rather than liberal. So yeah, the danger of putting people into groups is you say, Oh, let's take a lesson from history. All Jews are bad. Yeah.

Well, no, but okay, go with it.

I'm just like taking a lesson from history. So if you get to a point where your government says all Jews are bad, I'm not saying all Jews are bad. What I'm saying is we have a, a historical context and in fact they all, what is tearing the world apart? And if you remove them, everything will be great and we know where that leads because we've seen it and you can do it the same with intellectuals in Cambodia, homosexuals in any part of Africa. It's not like it's a western thing or it's an eastern thing or it's an African thing. It's just you start to stop looking at people as human beings and you start to see them as a group. It makes it very, very easy to then broad brush tar people and do basically atrocious things

happening with terrorists and people just lumping terrorism in listen when they're really not, but there's the terrifying thing is that people are doing that. This is Seth and suddenly when it's a group and not a person, exactly, it's, there's no emotion involved. It is really scary and something that we must always be aware of and learn from history

so that the argument is now if you're going to start doing profiling, these are people that all say are the same traits that by x, look for other people that have those traits and try themselves a Max. That that's how marketing effectively works in a really simple simple way. So if you start to apply that out into sort of, I can't believe this was the, how much energy does the Internet use? But anyway, you're just starting out into social control. People who have the following traits tend to be, yeah. And now we're just looking at a percentage. Like are they 90% likely or are they 95% likely to be much?

You can even broaden it and go, oh, we'll just sort of make the group a bit bigger by putting a little lever up and down the percentages and can,

it's how many, how many more people is that capture how many more of the people that we don't like? Does that capture, oh like almost all of them earlier. So now, now we know who we don't like. We know that traits, we can find out the things that will resonate with the rest of the population about them that they don't like.

Wait, wait. But if this is used for marketing, it could be construed as a good thing, but the moment you change it from marketing into social profiling, it becomes a really terrible thing.

Whoa. Oh, life is perception. Sorry. If you want to get rid of foreigners from a country, find out what the traits about foreigners that people don't like. Whack that home in the media and then it's fairly easy to get rid of them because everyone's being fed or sad stories about these people that are true because they are things about them, but they being twisted in a way without the things about them that you do. Like for instance, all of the advantages that they gave or it's not balanced.

Oh my goodness. So you were just showing, I mean if someone said my bad points not make good points, I would be a horrible person. So you're only showing like a tiny weeny shot.

I'm saying if you were so inclined to do that. So you say, right, we find that people who live in social housing or a drain on society, yeah, they don't give anything back and therefore what we want to do is start a campaign to either two possibilities, make people who live off the state stop living off the state or to allow the population to allow us to stop paying them as much money. So that's a media campaign. That's marketing. Yeah. I'm going to sell you some benefits and features. You see what I mean?

Yeah. Shuddering I'm shuttering, I don't know how we got into this, but now I'd like to get out and go back to the wonderful colors of the internet and whether it's green or red or orange,

I don't think anything is kind of things green.

Yeah, I mean that's the interesting thing, isn't it? It's, it's all they weigh up against everything else and so perhaps it does use lots of energy, but so does everything else. I think the where to improve it and the differences is that some energy, like in countries with lots of waterfalls and wind can be very clean energy to power the Internet. And then some countries like ourselves and many other countries we using really unclean energy. Yeah. I don't know where my nuclear elephants fit in that, but that's the thing. If we could generate the internet from clean energy, it would be great. We just have to move along that way.

It would, but that will only happen when unclean energy is too expensive because that's the market. This is the whole thing. You give subsidies to people to put solar on their roofs in Germany or would it have been better to actually put those sunrooms to people in Africa who ae need the bloody free energy and B have a download a sun to the grid, but they don't have the money to run those kinds of programs so they end up not being on houses in Africa where they would be really useful. They ended up being on houses in Germany so people can save $20 inefficient allocation of resources. If only we had data and we could allocate the market currently

data and a more socially gregarious, socially acceptable socially giving society.

Yeah. But then you'll just follow that rabbit hole. It's gonna end up exactly where we were, which is they know everything about you and they're making decisions about you that you have no control over.

But if we were all happy to share everything like you are within a family, then the world would be a better place.

Oh, okay. Yeah. If that was true. So, but that comes back to the, if you gave everybody the same of money, took

all the money away from everybody in the world, basically divided into a pie and gave everybody the money again. Yeah. So it would still get uneven again after a very, very quick, not even after a while. Very, very quickly. Because the nature, I wonder if the same people would get rich or different people would get right. Okay. So now we're just playing any media minded man. The fact is, is the people that got rich would not necessarily be the people you would want to get rich. Oh, they might be. Some of them would be. Some of them wouldn't be. And the people that got poor, I didn't necessarily want them to get Paul. No, exactly. Can the Internet make people richer? Oh, I mean it's made some people like Mark Zuckerberg infinitely. Actually. It's made a lot of people. I'm as in Africa, it's made them richer. It's cut out middle men. It's probably made the middle. If you think about it, for you and for me has it

redesigning newspapers or magazines or do you see what I mean? So what I'm saying is you now pay what, 30 quid for your Internet. You pay probably another 20 quid for your phone. You pay. You see what I mean? It's not free. The Internet is not free. It doesn't come to you. It's basically a cost. It's an added cost that you didn't have 10 years ago. 20 years.

No. What? That's what we're going to talk about. Is the Internet free, should information be free or is it all very expensive and loco doom and gloom all over again, someone's got to pay for those eight. But like you said, someone's got to do doom and gloom. Someone has got to pay for the eight new capacities as well. It sounds like one of those elephants are about to arrive on my doorstep in a year or two, so that's be nice. In what way? Sizewell Oh, will that be fine? Never had to worry about a new capacitation on their doors that I've looked at the radiation circle. Me and my family were gone. Well, you say that and do you know they had a leak once? Yeah. But have you ever put a Geiger counter on a walnut? No, I haven't got a Geiger counter. Okay. Have you ever been to Dartmore? Yes, but I haven't put a guy counter throw the door either because I haven't got a Geiger counter. But you can probably have a look up on the Internet about what a Geiger counter might say, if you pointed that. A walnut or a dot mall. What? That it's full of radiation. What is the world's for the radiation? Yeah, but not as much as if a nuclear power station exploded. Nuclear power station exploded. It's the least of your problems. Well, yeah, I wouldn't be here anymore. Yeah, but maybe that's kind of better, isn't it?

I mean, 20 miles further and now you've just irradiated and sick and for the cancer and all of those nasty things. So I'd rather go in the blast personally. Okay, well, on that happy note, it's tough for us to say goodbye. We'll talk about incidents.

Have a good week. Bye Bye.

Dan & Abi work, talk & dream in tech. If you would like to discuss any speaking opportunity contact us.