The Color of Technology
When I first glanced at the title of Bill Schrier’s latest blog post, “Gray, Not Green, Technology,” I thought he must be referring to green jobs. Those are the jobs in alternative energy that aren’t productive enough to sustain themselves in the marketplace, but that are supposed to be the professions of the future (if the government subsidizes them, that is). Wasting resources on jobs that wouldn’t exist in a competitive environment is antithetical to the goal of saving and conserving resources, so I would readily classify such programs as “gray” rather than “green.”
However, reading further I see that Schrier isn’t referring to any specific policy; he’s wary of technological progress in general. Here’s why he thinks green technology is a myth:
Technology contains scarce minerals mined from the earth. It uses a lot of plastic (plastic comes from oil, right?). It takes a lot of water and toxic chemicals to make electronic components. An integrated circuit or chip factory uses as much water and power as a small, not-very-green, city.
Using technology is injurious, both to the environment and to people.
I’m starting to wonder why he took the job of Chief Technology Officer for the city of Seattle!
Schrier doesn’t consider all the materials and brainpower that would be wasted if we tried to do the same tasks without the benefit of technology. For example, imagine if there were no Internet and blog posts had to be printed in newspapers. You would have to deliver the newspapers several times a day in order to deliver information as quickly as a blog. Maybe you’re thinking, “They should just print them once a day and people could do without reading blog posts as soon as they’re written.” But then you have to take into account all the resources that would go to waste because of a lack of information — all the poor decisions that could have been prevented had people known more, sooner.
Even if you accept Schrier’s premise that technology is harmful, you must admit that technology is here to stay. And, because it is, the smartest thing to do is to create more new technologies, because they are cleaner, greener, and more efficient. It’s a good thing we didn’t stop developing computers when they were the size of rooms. Let’s welcome technological innovation and the environmental benefits it’s sure to bring.