L’Enfer numérique : Voyage au bout d’un Like,
by Guillaume Pitron
First published September 15, 2021
English Expected publication March 7, 2023
by Scribe US:
Digital Hell: The Inner Workings of a “Like”
Audiobook narrated byJean-Philippe Renaud
Wow, what an eye opener and a punch in the stomach! L’Enfer numérique: Voyage au bout d’un Like [Digital Hell: The Inner Workings of a “Like”] is about everything digital, the impact on our planet, and where our world is going. It covers the environment, geopolitics, and ultimately, our civilization.
Actually a very scary book.
I usually don’t read horror fiction, but I got my share of horror in this nonfiction book.
We usually think the internet as something quite immaterial, but the author shows this is absolutely not the case.
Guillaume Pitron is an acclaimed French journalist, with several awards for his research. He’s also written an important book, The Rare Metals War: the dark side of clean energy and digital technologies, which sounds to be just as scary.
As the book I listened to won’t be published in English until March 7, 2023 I’m pasting here my translation of the French synopsis.
“How can we suspect that a simple Like sent from our smartphones requires what will soon constitute the largest infrastructure built by man? That this notification, crossing the seven operating layers of the Internet, travels around the world, using submarine cables, telephone antennas, and data centers located as far as the Arctic Circle?
The “dematerialized” digital world, essential for communicating, working and consuming, is proving to be much more tangible than we wanted to believe. Today, it absorbs 10% of the world’s electricity and represents nearly 4% of the planet’s CO2 emissions.
But we struggle to understand these impacts, so much is our brain clouded by the mirage of a pure and ethereal cloud.
However, we must face the facts: if there is a “cloud”, it is black with pollution.
This investigation, conducted for two years on four continents, reveals the anatomy of a technology that is virtual only in name. Under the guise of limiting the impact of man on the planet, this technology is actually already asserting itself as one of the major environmental challenges of the 21st century.”
I think this already gives you a good idea of the content of the book.
I really had no idea about all the levels of pollution implied (including with millions of cables at the bottom of oceans), about all the energy and electricity and AC needed for mega data centers – sometimes to the detriment of the need of locals.
As a good illustration of that, Associated Press recently (August 9, 2022) published an investigation on how the mining of rare earths (needed for anything electronic in cars, phones, etc) has been ruining the environment in Myanmar – with no drinkable water now available for locals, among other problems. Please read ‘The Sacrifice Zone’: Myanmar bears cost of green energy.
So, what to do with this information?
Obviously, I cannot by myself save our planet, and my action are but a drop in the ocean. Still, if I ignore the situation, I can only contribute to make things worse. And if I join the people who try to act responsibly, it may help.
So I have been reflecting on my daily use of electronics and have started implementing a few things:
- deleting tons of old emails – that do use energy to be kept on servers somewhere in the world)
- unsubscribing from many newsletters
- unfollowing a few book blogs that don’t present books I usually read
- limiting drastically my postings on Twitter and Instagram
- limiting drastically my visits on Twitter and Instagram, and my “likes” there
- I had already limited a lot my Facebook activity
I have a list of other things I want to do:
- unsubscribe from many youtube channels
- delete my Facebook business page, as my France Book Tours business is no longer active
- delete old unnecessary posts on my blog (giveaway posts and the like)
- clean my Google drive
- check what to do with my Pinterest account, which I rarely visit
- clean my computer files
we only have one car, that we only use when needed.
we don’t have TV
I now use my phone (which I keep as long as possible) as an ereader
Tell me, are you trying to limit your digital use? How do you do it? Do you have resources helping you to do this?
Obviously, keeping a blog and posting about this is a contradiction, but if I only keep this blog as my internet presence, that will be a huge percentage off what I used to do before reading this book.
VERDICT: A major eye-opener and a punch in the stomach: how I am polluting the world with my use of internet and electronics, and what I can do to limit the problem. Probably the most inspiring book I will read in 2022.
WILL YOU READ THIS BOOK?
What are you personally doing to help in this respect?
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