Environmentally Sustainable Computers and Technology

“To reverse the effects of civilization would destroy the dreams of a lot of people. There’s no way around it. We can talk all we want about sustainability, but there’s a sense in which it doesn’t matter that these people’s dreams are based on, embedded in, intertwined with, and formed by an inherently destructive economic and social system. Their dreams are still their dreams. What right do I — or does anyone else — have to destroy them.

At the same time, what right do they have to destroy the world?” 
― Derrick JensenEndgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization

We have some huge steps to climb in the field of technology. Technology (aka: tools) can be of great importance to civilization. They can also destroy it. In the technology and computer industries, one of our main concerns should be environmental sustainability because if we destroy the world, there will be no use for tools anyway. Watch some of my favorite documentaries like Sustainable (this is my all-time favorite documentary), The Smog of the Sea, or In Search of Balance, and you will quickly understand the importance of a healthy environment.

Computers, with their large amounts of power-consumption and their heavy reliance on precious minerals from the Earth, certainly have their environmental impact. The good news is that many people and companies are working on reducing and even eliminating that impact.

The biggest enemies of the environment seem to be corporate-scale farming (aka factory farming), transportation, and power production/consumption.

The Computer Industry Takes Its Toll

The computer industry fits into each of these industries in various ways. The most obvious is power. Computers use electricity. Computers also use other natural resources from the Earth like silicon and steel. And, if not properly recycled, they contribute to pollution.

In the corporate-scale farming and transportation sectors, there is a little more hope. The processing power, the analytical thinking power, of modern computers can be used to find ways of making farming (and other industries for that matter) more sustainable. The networking power of modern computers can be used to significantly reduce the environmental impact of transportation simply by allowing more people to work remotely. This can significantly cut down on driving and flying.

I’m not an easy person to convince, and if I were the ruler of the world, I would probably just say, “to Hell with computers. We did alright without them for a long time.” But then again, I don’t know God’s ultimate plan, so the best I can do is what I am doing right now, think about how I can do what is right, what is virtuous.

Great News for the Environment

In my thinking and researching, I found some great news. In fact, it may be the best news I have seen all year. It should be news that is on the front page of every newspaper and news website. It should be spread because it is good news, and it is news that can affect positive change.

The great news I found is that Microsoft, Google, and Apple (pretty much the three biggest players in the computer industry) all do at least a little bit – they are at least aware – by way of environmental sustainability. In fact, after finding the environmental web pages for each of the companies, I am hopeful that computers may be more of a solution than a problem for environmental sustainability.

Here are links to Microsoft’s, Google’s, and Apple’s environmental sections. They all look pretty good. Microsoft claims that its global operations have been carbon-neutral since 2012, Google claims Google’s got all kinds of projects working towards sustainability, and Apple claims that 100% of the energy used to power their data centers is produced by wind, solar, or water.

Of course, it would not be in these companies’ best interest to report on the bad, so we can’t expect them to do that. But the important thing is that they are putting some effort into doing good for the environment.

Improvements that computers can help with

That good news got me thinking less about throwing my computer out the window (although, I would still like to do that with a few of the computers and people I deal with each day), and more about ways I would like to see computers improve our world. Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Improve network infrastructure and communication media to make it possible for more people to travel less
  • Improve efficiency in the workplace so that people can work less. Wouldn’t 30 hour work weeks be awesome!? My hope is that this extra time would be spent on positive things like gardening/homesteading (sustainable food), cooking (instead of eating out, because restaurants typically don’t use sustainable practices), and being with family and friends (happiness).
  • Provide opportunity for the poor to get out of their poverty if they so choose. Essentially, I would like computers to be accessible enough that they create a more even playing field, so that those who work hard and contribute to society are justly compensated. Computers can create a more even playing field by giving the poor opportunities for work that they might not have otherwise had. These opportunities might include giving a voice to the voiceless (by way of blogging/broadcasting), providing free information for learning and knowledge, and aiding in finding work.

We’re not there yet, but we can be soon

Though it looks like we’re going in the right direction with computers, we aren’t there yet. We always need to be vigilant, watching out for the gifts God has given us. For this to work, we all need to play our part. We need to keep companies in check. And we need to keep ourselves in check by doing things like recycling our old devices, reducing power consumption, and reusing items that still work like the mouse from an old computer or the power adapter from an old phone.
If you are interested in learning more about computers and sustainability, here are some great resources I have come across in my research:

A Bit About Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko is my favorite film to watch during the Halloween season. It is creepy and takes place in October. Also, the soundtrack kicks butt.

My affection for the movie goes beyond the great setting though. What really draws me are the theories and discussions surrounding the movie.

At first glance, the plot is confusing and nonsensical. Even then, the movie is great. The characters are interesting, the romance is bold, and the humor is just right.

After reading up on the movie, one starts to realize it is not just a movie. It is a poem.

I have watched Donnie Darko many times, and each time I have noticed new details. When I notice something new, I consider how it plays into the plot.

If you haven’t read up on Donnie Darko theory, click this link for a good overview.

I could discuss my own theories and observations about the movie for weeks. I won’t do that, but when I watched the movie today, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before.

Donnie goes to the movie theater with his girlfriend, Gretchen Ross. While watching The Evil Dead, Gretchen falls asleep, and Donnie sees Frank. Frank tells Donnie to go burn down Jim Cunningham’s house. Donnie does what Frank tells him. As he exits the movie theater, the theater marquee in the background shot says, “The Evil Dead,” and below that, “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

Those words, “The Last Temptation of Christ” are the hinge of my theory. I’ve noticed the placement of the words before, but hadn’t thought much about their role in the plot.

At first, it appears that “The Last Temptation of Christ” means Frank has tempted Donnie (the savior figure of the story, the “Christ”) to burn down Jim Cunningham’s house. I believe the temptation is the opposite of that. Donnie is tempted to not burn down Jim Cunningham’s house.

Jesus Christ actually overcame His last temptation. He did not succumb to it.

If burning down Jim’s house is the temptation, then the “Last Temptation of Christ” sign doesn’t make sense because Donnie did burn Jim’s house down. If burning Jim’s house down is the temptation, Donnie succumbed to temptation, unlike Jesus Christ.

Further evidence supporting my theory is the fact that Donnie is always thinking about girls. This is made evident in one of his hypnotherapy sessions.

At the theater, Donnie was sitting right next to his girlfriend. That is paradise for a teenage boy. That is what Donnie really wants. He wants to stay right there with Gretchen. However, if he stays, the world will not be saved.

The world will not be saved because Donnie will not have a strong enough reason to save it. Donnie will not have a strong enough reason to save it because he will not have to save Gretchen. He will not have to save Gretchen because Gretchen will not get hit by Frank’s car. Gretchen will not get hit by Frank’s car because there will never be a party. There will never be a party because Donnie’s mom will not be out of town. Donnie’s mom will not be out of town because the mean dance coach lady will be able to chaperone. The mean dance coach lady will be able to chaperone because Jim Cunningham will not be on trial. Jim Cunningham will not be on trial because he will not be busted with child porn. He will not be busted with child porn because the firemen will not find his secret porn stash. The firemen will not find his secret porn stash because Donnie will not set his house on fire. Donnie will not set his house on fire because he succumbed to his temptation to stay with Gretchen.

Donnie is tempted to stay right there with Gretchen because he knows, as Frank states in the theater scene, what is going to happen. Donnie knows he will die if he does not burn Jim Cunningham’s house down.

Donnie is tempted to not burn Jim Cunningham’s house down. Like Jesus Christ, Donnie overcomes the temptation in order to save the world.

That is my theory about the meaning of the sign behind Donnie when he exits the movie theater. Any Donnie Darko fans/theorists out there, what do you think?

P.S. I wrote a song about Donnie Darko a couple years ago. If you understand the movie, you will understand the song. You can listen to it on my YouTube channel.

Note Minimalism

Minimalism of notes.

I do not have enough time to act on all of my ideas – too many ideas, too little time. So instead of acting on them, I wrote them down.

I wasted all kinds of time writing down ideas that would never come to fruition. My list of ideas grew out of control. It took a few hours just to read it through.

Due to my overabundance of ideas, I was overwhelmed, and nearly paralyzed in my ability to act on them. I didn’t know where to start let alone finish.

In order to save time and hack my mind into completing more projects, I came up with the idea of note minimalism. And I did not add it to my list of ideas.

The idea of note minimalism is to eliminate the documentation of ideas that will never turn into actions.

The Rules of Note Minimalism

Rule for tracking ideas:

  • Do not write ideas down

Rule for acting on ideas:

  • Work on one project per medium at a time. This means that I can work on a few projects simultaneously as long as they’re different types. For example, I can work on one website, one song, one blog post, and one novel, all at the same time. However, I cannot work on two or more websites, two or more blog posts, or two or more novels at the same time.

The golden rule:

  • Do not start a new project of the same medium until:
  • Completing the current project, or
  • Trashing the current project

A Mind Hack for Motivation

In his idea/task organization book, Getting Things Done, David Allen argues that writing things down is important. He says it frees the mind to focus on the task at hand.

I tried Allen’s system. It may work for some, but it did not work for me. I found that writing the idea down ruins my drive to act on it. The project loses its urgency. I figure, now that its written down, I can finish it some other time. That time never comes.

Each new idea comes with a little bundle of excitement. By refusing to write the idea down, and refusing to work on two projects at once, the mind is forced to channel its excitement into the current project. It thinks, “I must finish this project so I can work on the new, exciting one.”

The Test of Time

It is my hope that note minimalism will lead to increased time for working on projects, and increased drive to complete projects. I have been following the rules of note minimalism for a couple weeks now, and, look, I’m actually posting stories on Medium!

This early in the trial, it is possible that the excitement of the new idea, rather than the implementation of the idea, is the driving force. These things always seem to work great at first. Only in time will we know the truth.

Harness Nostalgia’s Power to Make Life Easier

Nostalgia, a longing for the good old days, is a powerful emotion. Video games have been around long enough now to induce nostalgia in the psyches of grown men. The recent explosion in the value of old Nintendo games is proof of nostalgia’s power.

You can harness nostalgia’s power to make your life easier. In fact, if you don’t harness it, you may experience less successful and at greater cost.

Recipe for Nostalgia

Think about what makes you feel nostalgic. Think about your past. You probably still do some of the things you did back then. You might listen to the same songs. Maybe you watch Halloweentown every Halloween because it reminds you of the good old days.

Nostalgia will form based on two things; non-negative action and repetition. If there was a recipe it would look like this. Add any action, as long as it is not a negative one. Repeat the action with a degree of regularity. The positivity of the action and the degree of regularity will determine the strength of the nostalgia to come.

Brew Your Nostalgia

If you played Mario Kart 64 every day after school for three years, nostalgia for the game has probably, at some point, hit you like a blue shell.

Imagine you came home and, instead of playing games, did math homework every day after school. Math homework can be a bummer, but it is not generally negative. The ingredients are there; non-negative action and repetition. It is very likely that you would feel some nostalgia for the afternoons spent doing math.

Now imagine you threw one additional little step in there to increase the positivity of the action. Every day, you came home from school, poured some milk, and opened a pack of Oreos. Then you enjoyed the cookies and milk while you did your math homework. It’s a great recipe for nostalgia, and it increases thinking skills at the same time.

If you played Mario Kart every day after school, you will feel nostalgia for Mario Kart. If you had cookies and milk, and did math homework every day after school, you will feel nostalgia for those things.

Use Your Nostalgia for Good

Nostalgia only requires repeated, non-negative action. From that, it develops naturally with the progression of time.

Your job right now is to decide what you want to feel nostalgia for in the future. Think about what you want to do. Think about your mission in life. Maybe think about what you could do to generate income that won’t produce negative feelings.

Now start doing. If it’s not the most exciting thing in the world — if it is worth doing, it is probably difficult — add a little something positive like milk and cookies or Beethoven sonatas. Then repeat.

As time goes, you will develop nostalgia for your action. You will want to do what you are doing, even if you did not really want to at first.

Most importantly, be careful about things you are doing that will not help you achieve your goals because you can develop nostalgia for those things just as easy.

Stop Planning, Start Right Now

“The first blow is half the battle” — 18th Century Proverb

Getting started is difficult. It requires overcoming fear. It requires commitment. It requires punching procrastination in the face.

However, once you start you are halfway there.

You can plan and strategize all you want (aka not starting), but you will not really know what you are up against until you jump into the action.

A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” — General George Patton

The above quote is an awful thing for a military general to say. It demonstrates his perspective of an army as a unit rather than a group of human beings. It is brilliant wisdom, though, when it comes to the business of everyday life, when lives are not on the line.

When you start something there is always one of two outcomes. You will either finish or you will run into a roadblock. If you finish, good. If you run into a roadblock, you now know what problem you need to solve.

Starting right away forces you to ask questions, forces the problems to the surface, which forces you to come up with answers and solutions. So, if you have never tried, try it now. Stop planning, and jump right in!

A Name is Like a Work of Art

Each person brings his/her own life experiences to the interpretation of it.

One of Mozart’s symphonies, though universally portraying the feelings of triumph, can remind one person of grandpa sitting on his rocking chair, smoking his pipe, and listening to his phonograph. The same symphony might remind another person of a particular movie or event.

Things change a bit, however, when a work is truly great. The truly great work can transcend interpretation based on life experiences. Instead, the person’s life experiences are affected in some way by the work of art.

It is the same way with names. You can meet a guy named Tony, and the actions of every other Tony in your life will play some role — big or small — in your initial judgment of the Tony you just met. There is a reason parents do not name their children after people they dislike.

Your judgement of the greatest Tony you meet, the one who has impacted you the most, will be less swayed by the way you feel about other Tonys. Instead, the greatest Tony will be the influencer. He will have the strongest affect on how you view all the other Tonys you meet.

Be the big one. Be the one who people think of first when they hear your name, no matter how common it is.

Something Like Innocence

Sometimes I wonder what it was like in the time of Dalton from Road House. I wonder, what was it like to be free from mainstream usage of personal computers, smart phones, tablets, artificial intelligence.

What was it like to be Dalton, sitting in bed, reading Jim Harrison in a barn loft-turned-apartment. What was it like to have a radio and a watch, cassette tapes and real live stores.

There was nothing that needed such taking care of as a flat screen monitor needs wiping with a special liquid or a running computer must be kept in a room 70 degrees or cooler. Dalton had nothing like an Xbox or Playstation to keep plugged into a surge protector to protect it from power fluctuations. Or discs to keep in a case to protect from scratches. Dalton lived in a barn. He didn’t have anything to keep crispy clean so it looked pretty or worked well.

In his spare time, he worked out and did yoga, went to the auto parts store, read philosophical novellas and novels, dated beautiful women, and drank beer with Wade Garrett. He never had the slightest thought or inkling of watching another YouTube video, sending a text message to a friend, updating his profile picture on Facebook, or watching the latest super hero movie in 4K ultra-high definition on a 4K ultra-high definition television.

I wonder what that was like. Sometimes I wonder if I could go back to that, if I could live like that now.

It would be impossible at work, but what about at home, I wonder.

Could I move out to a small town with only a couple bars, live on some beautiful farm in a barn loft. Could I live without a TV or a computer or a smart phone? Could I live without online multiplayer video games? I could, but would it be better or worse? Would I get bored and give in, buying the latest and greatest TV and a stack of movies to go with it, or Netflix to stream to it? Could I live without an email address and online banking?

Sometimes I think I would like to do a Henry David Thoreau-style experiment in minimalism, but it wouldn’t be the same as being Dalton because I would always know what is possible. I would always know I could take a trip to Walmart and buy a smart phone or a new tablet. I would always know that it is possible to see ratings and reviews about my auto mechanic. I would always know I could go back to it.

The whole world is different now, changed. People work differently. We used to have to get to know the auto mechanic to know if we could trust him. Now, he does not need people to get to know him because they can simply see his ratings and reviews. So if we tried to go without ratings and reviews, we would be left in the dust because the mechanic is too busy doing work on improving his ratings and reviews.

We lost something like innocence. The whole world grew up. Is there any redemption?