- Listened: Building Lifeboats to the Emerging Futures
- Really interesting discussion. Lots of quotable moments (but I was listening while doing yard work so didn’t jot them down).
- Theory of change. Margaret Wheatley and the Two Loop Model.
- Some discussion on hope in a troubled world. I liked the definition of hope described, I’ll need to go back and pick that out.
- Also a mention of the New Constellations project, which I had forgotten, did something in Barrow a few years back.
- Read: Doughnut Economics
- Reflecting back and seeing them published on my website, I realise my work notes each day are a little mundane.
- I imagine most people aren’t that interested to see them.
- But, I do like the fact that they stimulate me to publish to the garden even on days where outside of work I have little time for it.
- And I find them a helpful piece of reflection.
- So I think I’ll experiment with putting them off in links from the main journal post. So people can read them if they want, but they won’t be right up in your face with visual noise.
This is the second in a series of regular monthly updates exploring the intersection of ecosocialism and ICT. In it I look at the problems of digital capitalism and positive actions we can support now that embody digital ecosocialism. I also explore readings and thoughts on the theoretical side of things, particularly with an eye on transition: how we get from (digital) capitalism to (digital) ecosocialism.
The media has made much of one recent example: a startup company heating public swimming pools with the excess heat from small, local data centres that process machine learning and artificial intelligence. At face value, the story of the ‘digital boiler’ is fun, innovative and feels like positive action. But in the face of catastrophic climate change, driven by capitalism and aided and abetted by the Big Five tech companies (Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Meta, Microsoft), is this kind of activity enough? Commenting on the inadequacy of dislocated, parochial attempts to challenge capitalism, Jodi Dean famously remarked: “Goldman Sachs doesn’t care if you raise chickens”. Relocating this sentiment to the capital-driven digitalization of the world, we can ask: “Does Amazon care how you heat swimming pools?”
The IPCC is unequivocal as to the cause of the crises of our times: human activity. We are altering the planet to such a degree that the change has been proposed as its own geological epoch: the Anthropocene. Others hone this further, asserting that it is not the presence of humans per se that is the cause, but the very particular configuration of our recent history: capitalism and growth. We are in the Capitalocene, and only an alternative to capitalism will get us out of it.
In all of this, one of the sectors with a major role to play is ICT. Computing and communication devices are now integral to our society – from our phones to our computers to the servers and the global infrastructure that networks them together. ICT has a significant environmental impact of its own through the lifecycle of its physical devices, but also an enabling and structural effect on the impact of other sectors and society in general. ICT plays a huge role in how the world operates.
Unfortunately, much of ICT has been captured for capitalist ends. Big Tech corporations are some of the largest in the world. They represent the majority of companies to have ever attained over $1 trillion in market capitalization, and they have resulted in “an intensification of labour and environmental exploitation on a planetary scale“. The paradigm of digital capitalism needs to be challenged and reversed if we are to stand a chance of combatting climate change. What can challenge its dominance?
Sustainable development and the sustainable development goals are well-known organising principles that aim to put people and planet first. The field of ICT for sustainability (ICT4S) explores the principles of sustainable development as applied to ICT. Yet, as with sustainable development as a whole, there are various approaches to ICT4S, and the majority either sustain the status quo or offer only mild reforms – such as repurposing excess computational heat rather than questioning its presence in the first place. Much more transformative strategies are needed to make the changes that we need in the timeframe that we have.
On the radical end of the spectrum of sustainable development lies ecosocialism. It melds socialist and environmental politics, with a strong anti-colonial and anti-capitalist sentiment that moves beyond private profit to socially useful and ecocentric production. Digital ecosocialism is the extension of ecosocialist ideals into the digital realm. It is ICT that embeds the values of planetary stability, social equity and agency throughout the sector. Many of the building blocks are here already: for example libre software and creative commons licenses. Digital ecosocialism combines resistance and regulation with the building of alternatives. Examples of digital ecosocialism in action include the cultivation of platform cooperatives; the socialisation of physical infrastructure; federated and democratically governed social media platforms; the building of data commons; the right to repair; tech worker unions; and activism against the excesses of Big Tech.
Perhaps one day in a post-capitalist future community-run digital boilers will power municipal infrastructure, but right now Amazon does not care how we heat swimming pools. Big Tech will care about strike action and worker empowerment; campaigns against exploitative practices; the deconstruction of intellectual property laws; regulation against monopolistic practices and early obsolescence; technology appropriation for the common good, and digital degrowth. As concerned ICT workers we need to urgently agitate, organise and educate to foster digital ecosocialism.
+ [[Associational socialism]]
+ The [[Iceberg Model]]
+ The [[water cycle]] is a complex system.
+ [[An Essay on Liberation]]
+ Read: [[What Does An Ecological Civilization Look Like?]]
+ Listened: [[Cuba’s Life Task]]
+ [[Conversations with Gamechangers]] is pretty awesome lineup.
+ Did the [[parkrun]].
+ Listening: [[Aaron Benanav on Associational Socialism and Democratic Planning]]
+ I’ve not had so much time for the stream of late. Most stuff is going in the garden. Of course, changes to the garden are a stream of themselves. I just mean I haven’t been posting much to the social media streams, where others can more easily discover and interact with it.
+ Bright the hawk’s flight on the empty sky.
+ [[A Wizard of Earthsea]].
+ Started [[Nature matters: systems thinking and experts]]
> If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves. . . . There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.
+ via [[Thinking in Systems]]
+ [[The Limits to Growth]]
tl;dr: more eco-socialism. Watching things and trying to get more out of them by thinking about them critically. Some emacs faffing. Much more happened of course, but I don’t tend to write much about work or my private life here in my digital garden.
+ [[Open Referral]] has been adopted as a UK standard.
+ [[Open Green Map]]
+ Watched: [[Cloud Atlas]].
+ I thought it was really good. Entertainingly done and plenty of thoughts about human nature to cogg on.
+ Oh yeah, a couple of days back we watched [[Wonder Woman]].
+ [[Political theory and film]].
+ I did my first [[parkrun]] in about 2.5 years yesterday. I got a new personal worst, but still pleased to be doing it again…
+ We visited [[Walney Island]].
+ I appear to be missing in action this day.
+ We’ve watched [[The Good Place]], WandaVision, [[Loki]], [[The Falcon and the Winter Soldier]], and [[Hawkeye]] over the last few months. Also watching [[Ms. Marvel]] as the episodes come out. All Marvel ones, apart from The Good Place. All pretty decent and worth a watch. Some of the Marvel ones even have a bit of social commentary in them.
+ So cool that [[KeePassXC]] comes with a CLI! Makes sense but I hadn’t realised. That is very handy for me.
+ Listened: [[The Uber files: the unicorn]]
+ Generally been avoiding a lot of the [[Uber Files]] stuff so far. Not quite sure why… it’s just kind of depressing I guess. And kind of confirming what was already known or suspected – that a firm built on aggression, growth and toxic masculinity is corrupt and rotten on the inside as well as the outside.
> What the system has done, as a mechanism to continue with growth at all costs, is actually to burn the future. And the future is the least renewable resource. There is no way that we can reuse the time we had when we started this conversation. And by building up a system which is more debt-driven—where we keep consumption going, but by creating more and more debt—what we’re actually doing is burning or stealing the time of people in the future. Because their time will be devoted to repaying the debt
+ I need to find a way to share my spacemacs config in both my personal and my work logins, but have some customisations in both spaces.
+ [[spacemacs profile-specific configuration]]
+ Listened: [[Drew Pendergrass and Troy Vettese on Half Earth Socialism]]
+ Reading: [[A Wizard of Earthsea]]
+ Can definitely see the climate change / don’t interfere with nature subtext.
+ As a piece of writing, not enjoying it quite so much as [[The Dispossessed]] or [[The Left Hand of Darkness]], but still good.
+ Did the [[parkrun]] again. A bit faster than last week; stopped less times.