I wrote an article about the need for low-carbon and and the path towards zero-carbon computing.


** The problem:
* By 2040 emissions from computing alone will be close to half the emissions level acceptable to keep global warming below 2°C. This growth in computing emissions is unsustainable: it would make it virtually impossible to meet the emissions warming limit.
* The emissions from production of computing devices far exceed the emissions from operating them, so even if devices are more energy efficient producing more of them will make the emissions problem worse. Therefore we must extend the useful life of our computing devices.
** The solution:
As a society we need to start treating computational resources as finite and precious, to be utilised only when necessary, and as effectively as possible. We need frugal computing: achieving the same results for less energy.
** The vision: please read the article, I'm out of characters.


@wim_v12e 25 years! I thought I was doing great with my 10-year-old desktop and 7-year-old laptop (both of which I do not intend to replace before 2025 unless I have a compelling reason to do so).
A computer that is 25 years old today would be an old-world Mac or a PC built for Windows 98. I agree with the article but woof! That’s a big thing to ask.

@reinderdijkhuis The rate of increase in memory, CPU and number of cores has slowed down a lot over the past 10 years though, so that there is effectively not much difference between a computer from 10 years ago and today, whereas as you point out, there is a huge difference with 20 years ago. I would gladly have kept on using my 10-year-old computer for another 10 years. Making that possible should be our goal.

@wim_v12e Agree entirely. By the way, as I wrote up the post for my secret link log, I realized that maybe some people are getting hung up on the definition of scarcity that is implicit in the article. You mean computer resources are scarce-as-in-oil but some people including in this thread read it as scarce-as-in-gold. Is this a good way to think about it?


@reinderdijkhuis What is the difference between scarce-as-in-oil and scarce-as-in-gold? I am not familiar with those terms.

I did not say that compute resources are scarce, I said that we should treat them as finite and precious.

Finite does not necessarily mean they have to be scarce, that depends on the demand vs availability. For example, there is a finite supply of air in the world, but as yet air is not scarce. (It could become scarce if we keep on polluting it of course.)

My ideal is definitely to do more with less, so that the finite amount of compute bounded by the need for sustainability lets us do all that is necessary.

But it is very well possible that if we truly limit our computing to what is sustainable, it will become more scarce and therefore more expensive.

Can you elaborate what people are hung up about? What is the problem they see?

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Never mind, forget I said anything. Sorry to waste your time.

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