[iDC] Introducing: Real Costs & Oil Standard

Andreas Schiffler aschiffler at ferzkopp.net
Mon May 14 12:31:33 EDT 2007

I have a comment on two of the remarks made in this thread.

Michel Bauwens wrote:
> How do we start is a difficult problem, but we can also view it in a 
> distributed fashion.  ...
> On 5/13/07, *Julian Kücklich* <julian at kuecklich.de 
> <mailto:julian at kuecklich.de>> wrote:
>     The good thing about virtual items is that they do not need to be
>     manufactured, and they can be created with a built-in expiration date.
>     So the environmental impact is extremely low ... 

In both suggested approaches, the emphasis seems to be on using 
information technologies in some form to create some kind of 'consensual 
hallucination' that serves an ecologically motivated goal. In one case 
it is the distributive properties of p2p networks, in the other it is 
some form of virtual item that are used to leverage some form of control 
and power from "cybespace".

There are two issues with this that I can see in the context of 
environmental change.

For one, information technology as a whole (i.e. the network of routers 
and fibers that transport the information) is problematic from both an 
ecological as well as a political angle:
- Internet as "power-hog": see for example the iDC threads on power 
consumption of the internet or take the the SecondLife avatar 
carbon-footprint as an example.
- Hardware is not build in a sustainable fashion at all (i.e. little 
reuse and recycling) and most of the devices we use are using vast 
amounts of energy and raw-materials to produce and create environmental 
issues upon disposal.
- IT as the poster-child of capitalism through excessive monopolization 
in the industry: the bulk of compoents comes from Intel+AMD (CPU),  
Microsoft+Apple (OS), Nvidia+AMD+Intel (Graphics) and so on.

The second one it, the relative removal of 'networked solutions' from 
the physical nature of the problem. Take my 'heat pump installation' as 
an example. Even if I would find a trusting source on the Internet that 
discusses the implementation of a 'geothermal heatpump' in a 
do-it-yourself fashion and offer p2p borrowing that allows me to 
implement it, that would still not solve my physical problem to have the 
system constructed (i.e. source the material, get things shipped and 
installed, etc.). This is where for example highly localized forms of 
ecological activism (the local Green party) trumps the net anytime and 
being active on the 'cyberspace drug' actually hampers efforts to affect 
change in the real world.

I am not sure how to respond to the first criticism (after all I am 
sending an email right now to a 24/7 server) but the second one is easy 
to solve: connect the virtual with the real world, add real-physical 
entities to the mix, make it easy to move real stuff around. For example 
the environmentally 'wimpy' exercise currently promoted by many 
governments to replace incandescent lightbulbs with energy efficient 
ones is in this sense better than anything available on the net today 
because it requires us to actually touch and handle the objectionable 

And one could favor p2p implementations that have at least some 
non-virtual components... in some sense, they would make it harder to 
"unplug" from the network promoting sustainability of the action. The 
success of SecondLife with is conversion of L$ into US$ is probably a 
good example for this idea at work (although it has nothing to do with 
the environment).


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