For long time I’ve thought technological progress will bring us good. After eons of evolution and thousands years of building our culture and technology, our knowledge is booming. Tt is, as any tool, double-edged sword. Will we thrive?
Let’s look at our past. Humanity was slowly struggling to survive. We were constantly fighting with nature; we were trying to tame it. And we did so, in some subjects, like agriculture, we are bending the nature under our will.
Yet, it seems we (as humanity) were too greedy, too thirsty. We are fighting with each other for resources. It’s not only about wars between countries, but battles between those who want to let our planet survive, and those who want grow, devouring our planet by the way.
Where’s technology in all of this?
It’s just a tool. Not good, nor bad; neutral. This tool work as catalyst to anything. We can hardly predict the weather in three days, but we use tech like Bitcoin. What’s wrong with it? Should a tool for wealth distribution take up energy needed to power up Australia? If it was energy neutral, there’s nothing wrong with it. Environmental cost would be marginal.
About a week ago I’ve watched documentary “It’s okay to panic” about climate changes in Poland (https://www.itsokaytopanic.org/). It has stricken me that while global warming is fact, some people are still arguing like those who say the Earth is flat. Then, I let it sit in my mind and work.
Today, some ‘dots’ have connected in me. That’s why I’m writing this. Is it deep analysis? Nope, just loose thoughts about a situation. Not only in Poland, the global one.
Okay, we know we (humanity) are in bad position. More and more factories, etc. are eating up energy. Like I said earlier, it would not be huge problem if energy came from renewal sources. We are digging up our fossil fuels, ‘consumables’. More of it we burn and use, the hotter we get as a planet. Instead of controlling nature we build up our way to new crises.
Anyway, if I complain without any hint, any light in a tunnel, this post would be worthless. Anybody can complain. It’s the easiest way. So, what’s the solution? I don’t know. I see only couple directions we could head, not solutions.
Use the newer tools
Humanity can be seen as a startup. At first, testing out ideas to survive, later on to grow. But the often praised culture of growth (exponential, ideally) has drawbacks. Any startup creates technological debt.
It builds minimal viable product. Nothing more. One that it could test an idea with. And sell it as fast as possible. Then when the idea is validated - there is real need for this, product has to become more and more complete.
But most often a startup is still at survival phase, which disallows it to kill the debt. While startup need this debt - it cannot build final solution from the beginning - at some point this debt has to be buried, product has to be rebuilt.
It’s same with humanity. At the moment we’ve found a path to create our future. We are walking it, building better and better cities, vehicles, trying to find solutions for biggest challenges. On the other hand, we are using too old tools too often.
Like someone would try to build a plane with a hammer. Theoretically possible, but not worth it. It’s the same with our energy use. Our hammer here is gas, oil and coal. Newer tools like solar power are still in minority. But we need them. Badly.
To be clear, by using old tools, I’m not talking only about factories and physical products. It’s about software, too. See: https://www.kardys.dev/2020/05/development-physically-hurts/
It’s where technology can help. It is a catalyst to invent better solar, wave or wind power gathering. And better batteries (current ones are not that environmental friendly, adding their 2 cents to overall pollution)
Create less waste
That’s another way to help. I mean not only waste like something we throw away, but our water and energy, too. I, myself, am not radical with taking up less resources. But when I see I can contribute, like switching off lights or closing tap water when not needed anymore, I try to.
For sure I’ve a lot to learn in this matter. Anyway, step by step I try to build better habits. Additionally, programming can cause a lot of waste in energy. I want to build as efficient programs as possibe.
Is that enough? Of course not. But rule of thumb is to be mindful of this. And small actions, habits accumulate over time. Better self-organization can be treated same as technology, as a tool.
Build the future
In the end, we are responsible for building our future. ‘Let someone fix this’ attitude won’t work. It is up to us to act and replace not working parts with better ones in our ecosystem. Will it stop global warming, etc? I don’t know. I know it will increase our chances.
Bury technological debt to and have solid foundations for tomorrow.
What’s your take on this?