Quite a brolio going on at the Archdruid Report regarding the sustainability of the Internet. Using his characteristic logic, John Michael Greer (the druid host) suggests that the End of the Information Age must be near, regardless of the oft-cited 'green gains in efficiency' from using the 'net. Obviously, there are a few Ad Astra Per Asperas who disagree but Greer is correct - just because a lot of people want information technology around doesn't mean it will it always be here, or guarantee our survival, or not bump up against hard ecological limits... right?Much of Greer's line of reasoning revolves around energy and living a world that is rapidly depleting same. When this type of thing happens older, more energy-efficient technologies may turn out to be more economically viable than their extravagant replacements. We've picked up hints of this already, like sail power is now faster container ships. More case in point, Amazon recently suggested that customers with large datasets using their S3 service skip the Internet and just mail them hard drives. The latter seems like a permanent policy too.
Some commenters are critical, pulling out the usual device that we will invent 'new', 'better', more 'efficient' technologies that will usher in The New Era. Greer correctly identifies the usual base-mistakes in the thought process - an asymptotic short-term trend that is projected to absurdity, the particularly common error of equating efficiency with conservation, and the fact that the Internet was mostly built from 1980 to 2005 when the price of energy dropped to the lowest level in human history.
Losing much of the Internet won't be a picnic, and Greer acknowledges such; the toughest part will be reinventing the enduring tech and related institutions like the newspaper industry and public libraries which are currently cutting hours, laying off staff, and closing branches. Recognizing that we are moving from an age of cheap energy to one of real ecological limits is a start but as Greer notes, such habits are hard to shake off and future mistakes may be difficult to avoid. Just remember to fund your local library when you get the chance. Archdruid Report
No More Information Age
What is the Environmental Impact of the Internet?
Internet Keeps Using More energy
Internet Plumbing Clogged - Bandwidth Maxed Out