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12

We have been told two things about the relationship between technology and nature. The first is that technology has enabled humans to master nature. The second is that technology has caused humans to destroy nature.

At the intersection of these two stories lies the idea of the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene contains a paradox: the term recognizes the immense power humans wield over the rest of creation, such that nothing on the planet is immune. Yet this same power poses a serious threat to humans. We’ve shaped the earth so intensively to suit our needs that it can no longer support them. (Some of us. Some needs.)

In this issue, we try to tell a different story about the entanglements of nature and technology. No surprise that the end of the world looms large. Big Tech teams up with Big Oil to build systems for smarter drilling. The residents of a small town continue to fall ill long after the microchip plant shuts down.

But there are also reasons for optimism. There are movements demanding a more “correct relation with the non-human world,” to borrow one contributor’s phrase. This issue offers some materials for imagining what such a relation might look like.

so good

—p.12 The Last Man (11) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago

We have been told two things about the relationship between technology and nature. The first is that technology has enabled humans to master nature. The second is that technology has caused humans to destroy nature.

At the intersection of these two stories lies the idea of the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene contains a paradox: the term recognizes the immense power humans wield over the rest of creation, such that nothing on the planet is immune. Yet this same power poses a serious threat to humans. We’ve shaped the earth so intensively to suit our needs that it can no longer support them. (Some of us. Some needs.)

In this issue, we try to tell a different story about the entanglements of nature and technology. No surprise that the end of the world looms large. Big Tech teams up with Big Oil to build systems for smarter drilling. The residents of a small town continue to fall ill long after the microchip plant shuts down.

But there are also reasons for optimism. There are movements demanding a more “correct relation with the non-human world,” to borrow one contributor’s phrase. This issue offers some materials for imagining what such a relation might look like.

so good

—p.12 The Last Man (11) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago
13

Technological mastery is a myth. Prometheus is not coming. In truth, everything is dirty, even the digital—especially the digital. Computers were supposed to be made of sunshine: “all light and clean because they are nothing but signals,” as another contributor to this issue famously wrote on her first computer, an HP-86, decades ago. As she already knew then, they are less pristine than promised. Their metaphors are ethereal but their footprints are filthy. They too are implicated in armageddon.

The renewable transition itself may involve new kinds of destruction.

But recognizing that nature is human-entangled and vice versa opens up more options than conservation. Recognizing that there was never any Eden to return to lets you look ahead. Indeed, the most hopeful futures may come from the darkest histories, where the lessons of resistance have been well learned. The world has ended before; there have been many armageddons. But this also means: We have to learn how to mourn. To mourn without despair; to mourn towards a future.

—p.13 The Last Man (11) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Technological mastery is a myth. Prometheus is not coming. In truth, everything is dirty, even the digital—especially the digital. Computers were supposed to be made of sunshine: “all light and clean because they are nothing but signals,” as another contributor to this issue famously wrote on her first computer, an HP-86, decades ago. As she already knew then, they are less pristine than promised. Their metaphors are ethereal but their footprints are filthy. They too are implicated in armageddon.

The renewable transition itself may involve new kinds of destruction.

But recognizing that nature is human-entangled and vice versa opens up more options than conservation. Recognizing that there was never any Eden to return to lets you look ahead. Indeed, the most hopeful futures may come from the darkest histories, where the lessons of resistance have been well learned. The world has ended before; there have been many armageddons. But this also means: We have to learn how to mourn. To mourn without despair; to mourn towards a future.

—p.13 The Last Man (11) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago
23

But the TCO managers also wanted to talk about something else. “We have a lot of workers in the oil fields. It would be nice to know where they are and what they are doing,” one manager said. “If they are doing anything at all.”

This is what our Chevron partners were most keen to discuss: how to better surveil their workers. TCO had thirty or forty thousand workers on site, nearly all local Kazakhstanis. They worked on rotating shifts — twelve-hour days for two weeks at a time — to keep the oil field running around the clock. And the managers wanted to use AI/ML to keep a closer eye on them.

They proposed using AI/ML to analyze the video streams from existing CCTV cameras to monitor workers throughout the oil field. In particular, they wanted to implement computer vision algorithms that could detect suspicious activity and then identify the worker engaging in that activity. (My Microsoft colleagues and I doubted the technical feasibility of this idea.) Enhancing workplace safety would be the reason for building this system, the managers claimed: more specifically, they hoped to see whether workers were drunk on site so that they could dispatch help and prevent them from hurting themselves. But in order to implement this safety measure, an “always-on” algorithmic monitoring system would have to be put in place — one that would also happen to give management a way to see whether workers were slacking off.

The TCO managers also talked about using the data from the GPS trackers that were installed on all of the trucks used to transport equipment to the oil sites. They told us that the workers were not trustworthy. Drivers would purportedly steal equipment to sell in the black market. Using GPS data, the managers wanted to build a machine learning model to identify suspicious driving activity. It’s not a coincidence that minor tweaks to the same model would also allow management to monitor drivers’ productivity: tracking how frequently they took bathroom breaks, for example, or whether they were sticking to the fastest possible routes.

The TCO managers were also interested in Microsoft products that could analyze large quantities of text. “Let’s say we have the ability to mine everyone’s emails,” one executive asked. “What information could we find?”

When I reflect back on this meeting, it was a surreal experience. Everyone present discussed the idea of building a workplace panopticon with complete normalcy. The TCO managers claimed that monitoring workers was necessary for keeping them safe, or to prevent them from stealing. But it wasn’t convincing in the slightest. We knew that they simply wanted a way to discipline their low-wage Kazakhstani workforce. We knew they wanted a way to squeeze as much work as they could from each worker.

I held my tongue and made sure to appear calm and collected. So did my colleagues. Collectively representing Microsoft, we turned a blind eye, and played along perfectly. We sympathized with TCO’s incriminating portrayal of their Kazakhstani workers and the need to uphold the rule of law. We accepted their explanation that increased surveillance would improve worker safety. But truth be told, we didn’t even need the excuses. Microsoft was hungry for their business. We were ready to concede.

aaahhhh

—p.23 Oil is the New Data (15) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago

But the TCO managers also wanted to talk about something else. “We have a lot of workers in the oil fields. It would be nice to know where they are and what they are doing,” one manager said. “If they are doing anything at all.”

This is what our Chevron partners were most keen to discuss: how to better surveil their workers. TCO had thirty or forty thousand workers on site, nearly all local Kazakhstanis. They worked on rotating shifts — twelve-hour days for two weeks at a time — to keep the oil field running around the clock. And the managers wanted to use AI/ML to keep a closer eye on them.

They proposed using AI/ML to analyze the video streams from existing CCTV cameras to monitor workers throughout the oil field. In particular, they wanted to implement computer vision algorithms that could detect suspicious activity and then identify the worker engaging in that activity. (My Microsoft colleagues and I doubted the technical feasibility of this idea.) Enhancing workplace safety would be the reason for building this system, the managers claimed: more specifically, they hoped to see whether workers were drunk on site so that they could dispatch help and prevent them from hurting themselves. But in order to implement this safety measure, an “always-on” algorithmic monitoring system would have to be put in place — one that would also happen to give management a way to see whether workers were slacking off.

The TCO managers also talked about using the data from the GPS trackers that were installed on all of the trucks used to transport equipment to the oil sites. They told us that the workers were not trustworthy. Drivers would purportedly steal equipment to sell in the black market. Using GPS data, the managers wanted to build a machine learning model to identify suspicious driving activity. It’s not a coincidence that minor tweaks to the same model would also allow management to monitor drivers’ productivity: tracking how frequently they took bathroom breaks, for example, or whether they were sticking to the fastest possible routes.

The TCO managers were also interested in Microsoft products that could analyze large quantities of text. “Let’s say we have the ability to mine everyone’s emails,” one executive asked. “What information could we find?”

When I reflect back on this meeting, it was a surreal experience. Everyone present discussed the idea of building a workplace panopticon with complete normalcy. The TCO managers claimed that monitoring workers was necessary for keeping them safe, or to prevent them from stealing. But it wasn’t convincing in the slightest. We knew that they simply wanted a way to discipline their low-wage Kazakhstani workforce. We knew they wanted a way to squeeze as much work as they could from each worker.

I held my tongue and made sure to appear calm and collected. So did my colleagues. Collectively representing Microsoft, we turned a blind eye, and played along perfectly. We sympathized with TCO’s incriminating portrayal of their Kazakhstani workers and the need to uphold the rule of law. We accepted their explanation that increased surveillance would improve worker safety. But truth be told, we didn’t even need the excuses. Microsoft was hungry for their business. We were ready to concede.

aaahhhh

—p.23 Oil is the New Data (15) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago
26

During the workshop, I asked a coworker how she felt about Microsoft working with Big Oil. She responded sympathetically, understanding my concerns about climate change. But she also seemed to feel there was nothing we could do. For her and many other colleagues I’ve spoken to, change has to happen at the top. The problem, of course, is that the top has powerful incentives not to change. Microsoft executives aren’t going to give up on the billions of dollars to be made from Big Oil, especially if it helps them win more of the coveted cloud market.

They are happy to offer employees small ways to live more sustainable lives, however. The company runs various recycling programs, encourages employees to “skip the straw” to reduce plastic consumption, and funds sustainability hackathons. (One hackathon project involved using AI/ML to detect trash in the ocean.) More broadly, Microsoft works hard to present an environmentally friendly public face. Its most ambitious green initiative is its promise to power its energy-hungry data centers with renewable sources. In 2016, Microsoft announced its goal to transition its data centers to 50 percent renewable energy by 2018. Hitting that target one year early, president and chief legal officer Brad Smith announced that the next goal is to surpass 70 percent renewable by 2023. “Time is too short, resources too thin and the impact too large to wait for all the answers to act,” he said.

On the surface, then, Microsoft appears to be committed to fighting climate change. Google has constructed a similar reputation. But in reality, these companies are doing just enough to keep their critics distracted while teaming up with the industry that is at the root of the climate crisis. Why go through the effort of using clean energy to power your data centers when those same data centers are being used by companies like Chevron to produce more oil?

—p.26 Oil is the New Data (15) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago

During the workshop, I asked a coworker how she felt about Microsoft working with Big Oil. She responded sympathetically, understanding my concerns about climate change. But she also seemed to feel there was nothing we could do. For her and many other colleagues I’ve spoken to, change has to happen at the top. The problem, of course, is that the top has powerful incentives not to change. Microsoft executives aren’t going to give up on the billions of dollars to be made from Big Oil, especially if it helps them win more of the coveted cloud market.

They are happy to offer employees small ways to live more sustainable lives, however. The company runs various recycling programs, encourages employees to “skip the straw” to reduce plastic consumption, and funds sustainability hackathons. (One hackathon project involved using AI/ML to detect trash in the ocean.) More broadly, Microsoft works hard to present an environmentally friendly public face. Its most ambitious green initiative is its promise to power its energy-hungry data centers with renewable sources. In 2016, Microsoft announced its goal to transition its data centers to 50 percent renewable energy by 2018. Hitting that target one year early, president and chief legal officer Brad Smith announced that the next goal is to surpass 70 percent renewable by 2023. “Time is too short, resources too thin and the impact too large to wait for all the answers to act,” he said.

On the surface, then, Microsoft appears to be committed to fighting climate change. Google has constructed a similar reputation. But in reality, these companies are doing just enough to keep their critics distracted while teaming up with the industry that is at the root of the climate crisis. Why go through the effort of using clean energy to power your data centers when those same data centers are being used by companies like Chevron to produce more oil?

—p.26 Oil is the New Data (15) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago
27

At the workshop in Atyrau, a young Kazakhstani data scientist approached me to ask about a project that he was migrating to Microsoft’s cloud platform. He didn’t speak English fluently, but I could tell he was a good engineer. I wasn’t sure if he really needed my help. It seemed like he just wanted to chat with another engineer in a room filled with businesspeople.

Afterwards, he told me a bit about how he ended up working for TCO, and how he wasn’t able to find any other opportunities in the country that could match the offer. He had attended Purdue University to get an undergraduate degree in computer science. But since the Kazakhstan government paid for his tuition, he had to return to the country to work. “It means that I have to work in oil,” he said. “It’s basically the only industry that pays.”

Speaking with him made me realize the extent of oil’s dominance in Kazakhstan. Oil is by far the biggest economic sector, accounting for 63 percent of the country’s total exports. In 2013, TCO made $15 billion in direct payments to the government — an enormous figure, considering that the country’s entire tax revenue that year came to $21 billion. TCO is also a major source of wealth for the region. For years, the venture has invested millions of dollars into building schools, community centers, and fitness centers for the local people.

Kazakhstan’s dependence on oil has only grown over the past decade. In 2016, TCO announced a $36.8 billion expansion to the Tengiz project, tying the country’s economic future even more closely to fossil fuels. To make matters worse, the country’s ability to produce oil relies heavily on multinational oil companies. At the time of its founding, TCO was a fifty-fifty partnership between Chevron and the state-owned KazMunayGas. Since then, ExxonMobil and the Russian oil company LukArco have joined the venture, but only KazMunayGas’s share has been diluted.

While the country would struggle to take advantage of its oil-rich lands without the help of these foreign partners, the partnership is far from a win-win deal. Chevron keeps a tight grip on power, appointing most members of TCO’s upper ranks. The power dynamic was clear at the workshop: lower-level employees were Kazahkstanis while management was almost entirely American. The local economy has also completely aligned itself with the needs of the American-dominated TCO. TCO proudly announced in Q1 of 2019 that it spent over $1 billion on Kazakhstani goods and services, which includes hiring more than forty thousand local workers to work in the oil field. But this makes local businesses highly dependent on TCO. If American oil companies pulled out of the venture or slashed funding, TCO would crumble, and many businesses would lose their biggest (and often only) customer, leaving the economy in shambles.

Big Tech isn’t responsible for Kazakhstan’s reliance on oil. Nor can we blame it for the climate catastrophe that we’re facing. But it is certainly exacerbating both. While Kazahkstan’s economy may benefit in the short run, intensifying the climate disaster will ultimately hurt the country too. Research shows that the region will suffer from increased aridity and more frequent heat waves, which could decrease crop yields and challenge food security.

this is insane

—p.27 Oil is the New Data (15) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago

At the workshop in Atyrau, a young Kazakhstani data scientist approached me to ask about a project that he was migrating to Microsoft’s cloud platform. He didn’t speak English fluently, but I could tell he was a good engineer. I wasn’t sure if he really needed my help. It seemed like he just wanted to chat with another engineer in a room filled with businesspeople.

Afterwards, he told me a bit about how he ended up working for TCO, and how he wasn’t able to find any other opportunities in the country that could match the offer. He had attended Purdue University to get an undergraduate degree in computer science. But since the Kazakhstan government paid for his tuition, he had to return to the country to work. “It means that I have to work in oil,” he said. “It’s basically the only industry that pays.”

Speaking with him made me realize the extent of oil’s dominance in Kazakhstan. Oil is by far the biggest economic sector, accounting for 63 percent of the country’s total exports. In 2013, TCO made $15 billion in direct payments to the government — an enormous figure, considering that the country’s entire tax revenue that year came to $21 billion. TCO is also a major source of wealth for the region. For years, the venture has invested millions of dollars into building schools, community centers, and fitness centers for the local people.

Kazakhstan’s dependence on oil has only grown over the past decade. In 2016, TCO announced a $36.8 billion expansion to the Tengiz project, tying the country’s economic future even more closely to fossil fuels. To make matters worse, the country’s ability to produce oil relies heavily on multinational oil companies. At the time of its founding, TCO was a fifty-fifty partnership between Chevron and the state-owned KazMunayGas. Since then, ExxonMobil and the Russian oil company LukArco have joined the venture, but only KazMunayGas’s share has been diluted.

While the country would struggle to take advantage of its oil-rich lands without the help of these foreign partners, the partnership is far from a win-win deal. Chevron keeps a tight grip on power, appointing most members of TCO’s upper ranks. The power dynamic was clear at the workshop: lower-level employees were Kazahkstanis while management was almost entirely American. The local economy has also completely aligned itself with the needs of the American-dominated TCO. TCO proudly announced in Q1 of 2019 that it spent over $1 billion on Kazakhstani goods and services, which includes hiring more than forty thousand local workers to work in the oil field. But this makes local businesses highly dependent on TCO. If American oil companies pulled out of the venture or slashed funding, TCO would crumble, and many businesses would lose their biggest (and often only) customer, leaving the economy in shambles.

Big Tech isn’t responsible for Kazakhstan’s reliance on oil. Nor can we blame it for the climate catastrophe that we’re facing. But it is certainly exacerbating both. While Kazahkstan’s economy may benefit in the short run, intensifying the climate disaster will ultimately hurt the country too. Research shows that the region will suffer from increased aridity and more frequent heat waves, which could decrease crop yields and challenge food security.

this is insane

—p.27 Oil is the New Data (15) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago
46

The cyborg vision of gender as changing and changeable was radically new. Her map of how information technology linked people around the world into new chains of affiliation, exploitation, and solidarity feels prescient at a time when an Instagram influencer in Berlin can line the pockets of Silicon Valley executives by using a phone assembled in China that contains cobalt mined in Congo to access a platform moderated by Filipinas.

—p.46 A Giant Bumptious Litter: Donna Haraway on Truth, Technology, and Resisting Extinction (45) by Logic Magazine 7 months, 2 weeks ago

The cyborg vision of gender as changing and changeable was radically new. Her map of how information technology linked people around the world into new chains of affiliation, exploitation, and solidarity feels prescient at a time when an Instagram influencer in Berlin can line the pockets of Silicon Valley executives by using a phone assembled in China that contains cobalt mined in Congo to access a platform moderated by Filipinas.

—p.46 A Giant Bumptious Litter: Donna Haraway on Truth, Technology, and Resisting Extinction (45) by Logic Magazine 7 months, 2 weeks ago
65

You mentioned that your current work is more focused on environmental issues. How are you thinking about the role of technology in mitigating or adapting to climate change — or fighting extractivism and extermination?

There is no homogeneous socialist position on this question. I’m very pro-technology, but I belong to a crowd that is quite skeptical of the projects of what we might call the “techno-fix,” in part because of their profound immersion in technocapitalism and their disengagement from communities of practice.

Those communities may need other kinds of technologies than those promised by the techno-fix: different kinds of mortgage instruments, say, or re-engineered water systems. I’m against the kind of techno-fixes that are abstracted from place and tied up with huge amounts of technocapital. This seems to include most geoengineering projects and imaginations.

So when I see massive solar fields and wind farms I feel conflicted, because on the one hand they may be better than fracking in Monterey County — but only maybe. Because I also know where the rare earth minerals required for renewable energy technologies come from and under what conditions. We still aren’t doing the whole supply-chain analysis of our technologies. So I think we have a long way to go in socialist understanding of these matters.

—p.65 A Giant Bumptious Litter: Donna Haraway on Truth, Technology, and Resisting Extinction (45) by Donna J. Haraway 7 months, 2 weeks ago

You mentioned that your current work is more focused on environmental issues. How are you thinking about the role of technology in mitigating or adapting to climate change — or fighting extractivism and extermination?

There is no homogeneous socialist position on this question. I’m very pro-technology, but I belong to a crowd that is quite skeptical of the projects of what we might call the “techno-fix,” in part because of their profound immersion in technocapitalism and their disengagement from communities of practice.

Those communities may need other kinds of technologies than those promised by the techno-fix: different kinds of mortgage instruments, say, or re-engineered water systems. I’m against the kind of techno-fixes that are abstracted from place and tied up with huge amounts of technocapital. This seems to include most geoengineering projects and imaginations.

So when I see massive solar fields and wind farms I feel conflicted, because on the one hand they may be better than fracking in Monterey County — but only maybe. Because I also know where the rare earth minerals required for renewable energy technologies come from and under what conditions. We still aren’t doing the whole supply-chain analysis of our technologies. So I think we have a long way to go in socialist understanding of these matters.

—p.65 A Giant Bumptious Litter: Donna Haraway on Truth, Technology, and Resisting Extinction (45) by Donna J. Haraway 7 months, 2 weeks ago
67

Socialists aren’t the only ones who have been techno-utopian, of course. A far more prominent and more influential strand of techno-utopianism has come from the figures around the Bay Area counterculture associated with the Whole Earth Catalog, in particular Stewart Brand, who went on to play important intellectual and cultural roles in Silicon Valley.

They are not friends. They are not allies. I’m avoiding calling them enemies because I’m leaving open the possibility of their being able to learn or change, though I’m not optimistic. I think they occupy the position of the “god trick.” [Eds.: The “god trick” is an idea introduced by Haraway that refers to the traditional view of objectivity as a transcendent “gaze from nowhere.”] I think they are blissed out by their own privileged positions and have no idea what their own positionality in the world really is. And I think they cause a lot of harm, both ideologically and technically.

damn

—p.67 A Giant Bumptious Litter: Donna Haraway on Truth, Technology, and Resisting Extinction (45) by Logic Magazine 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Socialists aren’t the only ones who have been techno-utopian, of course. A far more prominent and more influential strand of techno-utopianism has come from the figures around the Bay Area counterculture associated with the Whole Earth Catalog, in particular Stewart Brand, who went on to play important intellectual and cultural roles in Silicon Valley.

They are not friends. They are not allies. I’m avoiding calling them enemies because I’m leaving open the possibility of their being able to learn or change, though I’m not optimistic. I think they occupy the position of the “god trick.” [Eds.: The “god trick” is an idea introduced by Haraway that refers to the traditional view of objectivity as a transcendent “gaze from nowhere.”] I think they are blissed out by their own privileged positions and have no idea what their own positionality in the world really is. And I think they cause a lot of harm, both ideologically and technically.

damn

—p.67 A Giant Bumptious Litter: Donna Haraway on Truth, Technology, and Resisting Extinction (45) by Logic Magazine 7 months, 2 weeks ago
69

I think the Anthropocene framework has been a fertile container for quite a lot, actually. The Anthropocene has turned out to be a rather capacious territory for incorporating people in struggle. There are a lot of interesting collaborations with artists and scientists and activists going on.

The main thing that’s too bad about the term is that it perpetuates the misunderstanding that what has happened is a human species act, as if human beings as a species necessarily exterminate every planet we dare to live on. As if we can’t stop our productive and reproductive excesses.

Extractivism and exterminationism are not human species acts. They come from a situated historical conjuncture of about five hundred years in duration that begins with the invention of the plantation and the subsequent modeling of industrial capitalism. It is a situated historical conjuncture that has had devastating effects even while it has created astonishing wealth.

—p.69 A Giant Bumptious Litter: Donna Haraway on Truth, Technology, and Resisting Extinction (45) by Logic Magazine 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I think the Anthropocene framework has been a fertile container for quite a lot, actually. The Anthropocene has turned out to be a rather capacious territory for incorporating people in struggle. There are a lot of interesting collaborations with artists and scientists and activists going on.

The main thing that’s too bad about the term is that it perpetuates the misunderstanding that what has happened is a human species act, as if human beings as a species necessarily exterminate every planet we dare to live on. As if we can’t stop our productive and reproductive excesses.

Extractivism and exterminationism are not human species acts. They come from a situated historical conjuncture of about five hundred years in duration that begins with the invention of the plantation and the subsequent modeling of industrial capitalism. It is a situated historical conjuncture that has had devastating effects even while it has created astonishing wealth.

—p.69 A Giant Bumptious Litter: Donna Haraway on Truth, Technology, and Resisting Extinction (45) by Logic Magazine 7 months, 2 weeks ago
79

This top-down, technologically determined future ignores all the ways in which energy transitions aren’t just a question of market shares, but of the social pressures and material constraints that cut across them. Decarbonization will demand more than just a different kind of technology curve, accelerating sharply into the horizon. It will very likely require abrasive changes to well-worn cultural norms, the structure of cities and trade, and perhaps even the valorization of economic growth in its broadest terms. It will be conflictual, classed, and expensive.

Technology alone proves to be a poor analytic for these kinds of social changes. Moreover, as demonstrated by recent waves of popular opposition to climate policy, market fixes without considerations for equity are politically disastrous. People, infrastructure, and culture don’t fit into industry roadmaps or silicon wafers. They contain differences and resistances that can’t be universally scaled.

If Moore’s Law is to be a useful story through which to approach this future, it will be for all the reasons its green proponents currently ignore. The history of the microprocessor revolution is ultimately about the immensity of effort that goes into maintaining the dream of exponential growth — and its inevitable collapse. Moore’s Law was neither a socially constructed prophecy nor a materially determined outcome. It was a period of coordinated action within specific material parameters that have now passed. It leaves us facing a technological future that will require creativity within new constraints.

—p.79 Seeing Carbon Through Silicon (73) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago

This top-down, technologically determined future ignores all the ways in which energy transitions aren’t just a question of market shares, but of the social pressures and material constraints that cut across them. Decarbonization will demand more than just a different kind of technology curve, accelerating sharply into the horizon. It will very likely require abrasive changes to well-worn cultural norms, the structure of cities and trade, and perhaps even the valorization of economic growth in its broadest terms. It will be conflictual, classed, and expensive.

Technology alone proves to be a poor analytic for these kinds of social changes. Moreover, as demonstrated by recent waves of popular opposition to climate policy, market fixes without considerations for equity are politically disastrous. People, infrastructure, and culture don’t fit into industry roadmaps or silicon wafers. They contain differences and resistances that can’t be universally scaled.

If Moore’s Law is to be a useful story through which to approach this future, it will be for all the reasons its green proponents currently ignore. The history of the microprocessor revolution is ultimately about the immensity of effort that goes into maintaining the dream of exponential growth — and its inevitable collapse. Moore’s Law was neither a socially constructed prophecy nor a materially determined outcome. It was a period of coordinated action within specific material parameters that have now passed. It leaves us facing a technological future that will require creativity within new constraints.

—p.79 Seeing Carbon Through Silicon (73) missing author 7 months, 2 weeks ago