This note is a part of my Zettelkasten. What is below might not be complete or accurate. It is also likely to change often.
15th October, 2020

Technology and Sustainability

Technological Innovation has often been hailed as the solution to the problems of Finitude and Fragility. The narrative goes like this: If we continue to consume as we have been, the free market will provide technological solutions to all problems.

Technology and Finitude

Technology has given us a partial (most likely temporary) solution to Finitude. Using technology, we have been able to find newer sources and more efficient usages of energy so far. However, since we live in a finite planet, there are finite resources and we will eventually run out. Also, research has shows that in many cases where efficiency is increased, there is an overall increase in consumption. This is the Jevon's Paradox.

The bet being made by society is that technology will keep pace with our consumption and ensure our continued survival. One commonly cited example to support this argument is the rise of renewable energy.

Technology and Fairness

Technology is a tool and has had good and bad effects on Fairness. There have been technological advancements which have raised people out of poverty and empowered women and minorities (piped water, sanitation, etc).

Technology has increased inequality as well. For example: In India, men have more access to internet and smartphones than women. E-learning is a tool for privileged children - poor children dont have equal access.

Technology also powers this global capitalistic and exploitative trade system, which uses slave labour to do its bidding. Sweatshops create a lot of the technological devices we use. Thats not fair at all.

Technology and Fragility

Technology has greatly increased our Energy Leverage as a species. Before homo sapiens discovered tools, there was a limit to the energy a species could access and consume. Now, however, technology has made energy prevalent in our lives. We consume more energy in a day than some of our ancestors would have consumed in a lifetime.

We are now dependant on technology and energy sources which are no longer in our control. Technology also builds a web of dependency - it increases external dependancies. Even though there is are some redundancies built into the system, there is Fragility as well.

Adoption of technology has a high cost in terms of environmental effects - the 9 planetary boundaries are under attack and some of them are already breached.