The tech industry has a massive impact on the world and our societies, both positive and negative. Social networks have brought people together but have also been detrimental to privacy. Their broad reach and algorithms have helped with the Arab Spring but also with Donald Trump and Brexit. Smartphones require materials that are often mined by child labor. Data centers draw vast amounts of energy.
A few weeks ago I listed to an episode from The New Stack podcast with Anne Curie of the cloud consulting company Container Solutions. Together with London-based diversity-focussed programming meetup Coed:Code, she organized a conference called Coed:Ethics to talk about the impact of the technology industry and what we as professionals should do.
As she told in the podcast, they wanted to produce some tangible results from the conference, and for that, the UN development goals were an inspiration because they offer a low common denominator that is entirely noncontroversial so that everybody can agree on them.
The result is a whitepaper about the state of data center energy usage in 2018, which is at roughly 2% of the entire global energy usage, and a petition to hosters and cloud providers with a simple goal: run all servers with 100% renewable energy in 2024!
I like this goal, and I’ve already signed the petition, and I recommend you do the same. There’s less than 1000 signatures so far - I think we can do much better! Also, I believe the ecological footprint is an excellent way to start a discussion about the ethics of the tech industry before we move to more controversial topics such as privacy.