Catching up on links & jobs
Early Jan, 2023
This issue: I catch up with my links backlog.
Big Tech’s Dirty Secret
The 7,000 ton code edit
Metaverse: a net climate benefit?
The high environmental cost of ChatGPT, dall-e, and the other AIs
How to spot if oil & gas are undermining your local democracy
Jobs (via Elsa Plumley)
Big Tech’s Dirty Secret
Global Action Plan releases a new report, written by barrister and digital rights expert Susie Alegre, outlining how the core business model of companies like Meta, Twitter, Google and TikTok is one of the biggest obstacles to climate action. Key factors:
Energy use: big platforms, big energy needs.
Spread of misinformation: all these platforms not only fail to moderate out climate disinfo, but in many circumstances reward it.
Anti-democratic: the lobby power of these firms is humongous.
We also detail the extraordinary waste inherent in today’s dominant ‘ad tech’ systems. Trillions of automated ‘bids’ happen every day, fighting for the right to serve us ads when we load a webpage. But the nature of system means 99% of those bids are unsuccessful – the massive bandwidth and computing power, estimated to be 1% of global emissions, literally results in nothing.
[..] this increase means that the UK advertising industry has grown its contribution to every citizen’s carbon footprint from 28% in 2019 to 32% in 2022. The increase of 22m metric tons of CO2e between 2019 to 2022 is the equivalent to running an extra nine coal-fired power plants for a year.
32%, really? I’m a tad skeptical but haven’t checked their math(s).
The 700-tons-of-CO2-a-year code edit
Danny edited their code for a popular wordpress plugin used by 2 million sites. He crunches the numbers:
Shaving off a single kilobyte in a file that is being loaded on 2 million websites reduces CO2 emissions by an estimated 2950 kg per month.
59,000kg x 12 = 708 tons saved.
Ponder: metaverse good, or metaverse bad?
Wholegrain’s Tom Greenwood gets stuck into the metaverse (“Is the metaverse really the future we want?”). He has strong points regarding the many downsides of VR, as well as the climate impacts:
increased internet energy use
equity, lack of
negative physical and mental health impact
Big Tech literally redefining reality
It’s strong stuff:
I believe that one of the biggest barriers to solving the ecological crisis is our disconnection from nature. If as a society we retreat further away from nature, immersing ourselves in digital fantasy lands where we don’t need to observe the wonders and complexities of nature, the chances of us adapting to a sustainable future will significantly reduce.
I agree with much of this article, but here’s my counterpoint: could the success of the metaverse lead to a reduction in travel? The travel industry is responsible for 8% global CO2. If people choose to stay home and explore far-off places virtually instead, is there a net benefit? Probably not with the crappy VR we have today, but if it gets as good as depicted in ReadyPlayerOne / The Peripheral / Star Trek TNG, then maybe.
Bear in mind the first two examples show VR being used as a new opiate-for-the-masses in hellish future dystopias.
We know that recent crowd-pleasing AI like ChatGPT or Dalle are ethically iffy. Surprise, they are also big energy hogs.
…it is estimated that training an algorithm to automatically produce text uses 190,000 kWh; that is, 120 times more than the average annual consumption of a household in Europe in 2020.
From Ana Valdivia, Research Lecturer in AI, Government & Policy at the always-interesting Oxford Internet Institute.
How oil&gas holds back renewables in your town, specifically
Detailed article about how a right-wing think-tank uses every trick imaginable to create astroturf campaigns aimed to at killing, or at least slowing, renewable adoption.
What can you do about this? I guess call it out when you see it. Yet another reason it’s important to stay in touch with your local political scene.
Put together by Natalie Walsh (via ClimateAction.Tech)
“It depends”, says Jennifer Riggins.
From Tristan Harris’s Humane Technology institute.
Our mission is to catalyse the advertising industry’s climate transition to align with the IPCC’s 1.5 degree global warming target.
SustainableUX is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Thanks to the sagacious Elsa Plumley for sharing these opportunities:
UX Researcher @Ovoenergy a leading UK energy company determined to create a world without carbon (UK, 12 month contract) bit.ly/3GvbGGm
UX content specialist (French speaker)@ the train line, an independent rail platform that aims to empower people to make greener travel choices (Paris) bit.ly/3WWCzZj
Product Manager (Growth) @ the train line (London, UK) bit.ly/3Q5fn92
Brand and design executive @ WWF non-profit that works in wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment bit.ly/3Q2SiUt
Head of Design & Brand @Cogo, a fintec start-up on a mission to individuals and businesses to be more conscious of the impact of their spend on people and the planet (Wellington, NZ): bit.ly/3WtJg5j
Service design lead @Frog Impact, a start-up within frog.built to solve population scale problems, working with government product and policy teams (London, UK) bit.ly/3i4wb3q
Senior Business Development Officer @Client Earth, an environmental law charity dedicated to protecting life on Earth (London, UK) bit.ly/3Ge8cHg
“If I am a Techie, How Can I Help Solve Climate Change?” Kamal Kapadia for ClimateAction.tech
That’s all folks! Thanks to everyone who directed links to my attention.