söndag 19 mars 2017

The weight of the Internet (paper)


One week ago I wrote about my submission to the 3rd International Workshop on Computing within Limits. As it turns out, I actually submitted another paper to that same workshop (conference). The paper is written together with Björn Wallsten (Linköping University) and it is called "The Weight of the Internet" (the previous title was "On the effects of mineral scarcity on computing").

Björn and me actually made a half-hearted attempt to write this paper for last year's Limits workshop but didn't come very far so the paper has "rested" for the better part of a year before we revived it. I'm not sure how similar the finished paper is to the original idea any longer. Also, there were in the end many more things we wanted to discuss in the paper but we ran out of both time and space so we are pushing some ideas in front of us for an optional follow-up paper.

Björn presented his Ph.D. thesis back in 2015 and it's called "The Urk World: Hibernating Infrastructures & the Quest for Urban Mining". Our paper ties in to his thesis and asks what the effects of resource scarcity would be on computing. I could never ever have written this paper by myself as it marries Björn's knowledge about resources and infrastructures with my perspective on Computing within Limits.

Fun fact: both me and Björn sprout references right, left and center. The actual text is 6 pages long but we managed to squeeze in the better part of another 3 pages of references (currently 78).

The Weight of the Internet

Daniel Pargman1, 2  & Björn Wallsten3

1) KTH Royal Institute of Technology, School of Computer Science and Communication, Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design, Stockholm, Sweden.
2) KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Center for Sustainable Communications, Stockholm, Sweden
3) Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies - Technology and Social Change, Linköping, Sweden


Computing within Limits is concerned with “the impact of present and future ecological, material, energetic, and societal limits on computing”. We here discuss limits to computing by adopting a resource perspective on the provisioning of an infrastructure for computing with a particular focus on present and future availability of material resources such as minerals and energy. We use copper as our primary example to reflect on how we cope with finitude, why computing as we know it is unsustainable and why current technical innovation practices compromise present and future generations. We conclude the paper by discussing avenues to handle the predicament that is inherent in the extraction of nonrenewable resources, e.g. increasing efforts continuously yielding diminishing returns.

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