Digital technology is a tremendous resource for humanity. It improves our daily life by allowing us to take better care of ourselves (scanner, MRI, etc.), to educate ourselves, to open ourselves to the world, to pass on the knowledge acquired by our generation and the previous ones to the following ones. The list of its benefits is too long to list.
But digital technology also warms the planet to the tune of 4% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, suffocates aquatic environments (eutrophication), empties them of all life (acidification), not to mention the countless other forms of pollution and damage to biodiversity.
→ ANALYSIS. The issue of “irremediable losses” shakes up the COP26
From the appalling conditions of the extraction of certain metals in Africa to the overheating of our over-stressed Western brains, human beings are not immune to the toxicity of this pharmakon. The GAFAMs literally hack our minds by manipulating the reward circuit there, without our knowledge, by a design intentionally addictive. Goal ? Make us addicted.
This takeover of our “useful brain time” has been so successful that individuals, organizations, nations and even our entire civilization are now totally dependent on this technology. Like good addicts, we always ask for more. So much so that digital greenhouse gas emissions will triple in 15 years, going from 2% of anthropogenic emissions in 2010 to 6% in 2025.
Digital is a non-renewable resource
Beyond the short-term impacts, this dependence poses a problem of sustainability for our civilization, because digital technology is a non-renewable resource and is running out at very high speed. At the rate at which we consume the metals and rare earths that allow us to manufacture our computers, televisions and other smartphones, we have at most one to two generation (s) left. Several recent surveys estimate, for example, that the profitable reserves of antimony are less than 10 years and that of gold and silver in the order of 25 years. Without these resources, there is no digital. It will then be necessary to return to the telegraph and to the carrier pigeons …
Faced with the slowness of this awareness, we continue to delude ourselves by imagining the future filled with smart cities where autonomous electric vehicles exchange gigabits of data per second with ubiquitous artificial intelligences. But where are we going to find all the natural resources to build this utopia when the stocks will soon be empty? And what is the ecological cost of this all-technological approach? Is it compatible with the 2 ° C trajectory discussed during COP26?
It’s time to wake up ! To come back to reality and to save the digital. The challenge is to democratically choose to which uses we wish to devote the last available reserves. Do we decide to continue the last night of digital orgy in which we are currently wallowing: continuous increase in the size of mobile plans, the size of screens and television, incessant renewal of devices, over-equipment up to the connected Thermomix? Or do we decide collegially to come to our senses and save this common good?
Sobriety to make digital last
Between a violent and sustained decrease, which hangs in our face if we extend the current trajectory, and the illusion of “all technological” in which we lock our future, digital sobriety outlines a middle path. That of digital as a common good, which humanity cherishes, saves and shares to give everyone the same access to health, culture, etc.
→ MAINTENANCE. “Most people do not make any connection between digital and the environment”
Without excluding high-tech and without going back to the cave age, hybrid digital sobriety high and low tech to design more ingenious, more economical and ultimately more sustainable digital technology. It is aimed as much at digital players in their choice of design, as at citizens by offering them to be more reasonable in their daily digital consumption. In short, it’s about designing and using digital ingenuously and sparingly.
Slide more slowly towards a less technological future
The challenge of digital sobriety is significant: to avoid the collapse induced by a too rapid disappearance of this technology. By saving this resource today, we are giving our children no longer one, but 2 or 3 generations to slide towards a world that will inevitably be less. high-tech.
→ RECENSION. “Digital sobriety”, for a massive use of “low-tech”
Push back this horizon low tech towards which we rush too long is critical. The stake at the scale of civilization is not so much to be for or against technology and the digital one, but rather to avoid finding oneself in 30 years in a world “à la Mad Max” triggered by a “Big digital crunch” expected but which we are slow to anticipate.
For that, we need to agree on what we want to do with the remaining digital stock. And guarantee fair access to this resource to as many people as possible.
Given the societal stake that this represents, people all over the world are beginning to organize themselves to bring digital sobriety to the public and to legislate. This is the case for France with the law on “reducing the digital environmental footprint”, but also for Europe with the resolution of the European Parliament of November 25, 2020.