New Year thoughts from Jonathan: Tech Tent Wizard.
New Year thoughts from Jonathan Lamb.
My dad has bought himself a latest generation iMac (not sure exactly but I’m guessing at least a grand, probably more) – asked what it will be used for: “office, internet, watching movies”.
How long can this continue? Every 2 years, computers become twice as fast, yet almost everyone uses them for exactly the same things. Most computers get replaced because of a single piece of hardware failure, or worse still, a software infection. I work with Photoshop, 3DS Max and other similar software on an almost daily basis but can happily trundle by with a netbook or 200 pound eBuyer desktop with a RAM upgrade (luxury!)
It’s sad to say but many people are fast (and perhaps without realising) normalising their existence to a standard of glutinous excess:
Buying a massive meal and only eating part of it.
Buying a massive house and only living in one room.
Buying a sports car and only averaging 30mph in it.
Buying a people carrier and only carrying yourself in it.
Buying a 14GHz PC and only using 1.4GHz of functionality
Of course it’s ‘nice’ to have the headroom just in case you ever need to use it, but with most things, the worst case scenario of not having that headroom is just a slightly inconvenienced function (slightly slower process speed, slightly longer journey time, slightly less room to put all our junk, etc), but these inconveniences pale in comparison to what we indirectly deprive others of in our excesses.
Our raw materials on this planet are at breaking point: Rainforests are half gone, mines are closing all the time and are not being replaced, fossil fuels are running out to the point of dangerous extraction methods and corner cutting at the expense of life and land, and still we justify our excess and gross inequalities because we “earned it”.
If I cut down a forest that was being lived in, or flattened a village of wooden huts and made a mansion with the pieces I wouldn’t say I had earned that mansion, because I’d deprived the many of their needs in order to satisfy my wants, but this is what we do, in a roundabout way, whenever we own things with a function significantly beyond our needs.
It could be argued, for a time at least, that it was necessary to do so in order to justify the advancement of human technologies that provide tangible benefits and an increased quality of life, but these arguments no longer hold water as it becomes increasingly evident that the only thing we can adequately provide to a population of 7 billion people (using our current systems of wealth distribution) s food and water. And even that is a struggle!
But there is hope, if we would only be willing to see it. The materials, labour, and human ingenuity that goes into providing the world with one unnecessary iMac can equally go towards providing dozens of ‘lesser’ computers (for example the Raspberry Pi, a fully functional PC capable of playing HD movies, made by a non profit organisation and costing 15 pounds) that can be used to their fullest potential for providing people with their NEEDS. Access to education, to the Internet, to the vast cache of human knowledge and cultural history and potential that’s readily accessible to everyone who has the right tools.
But there’s no profit in these things.. we’re simply told that we need profit and growth and that’s all there is to it, but if we follow these teachings to the letter then we can only expect to see a world that is increasingly full of iMacs, Hummers, Mansions, food waste, planned obselecense, excessive packaging, and so on, because these are the things that make the most money for first world nations. The 3rd world will get the same deal whatever happens, because all they have are the resources. We’ve horded the intelligence, the infrastructure, the culture, the value, for ourselves, because, apparently, ‘we deserve it’.