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Provocations

Primum non nocere at the end of the world

Climate change is the largest, most complex problem we as a species face.

So we are addressing it in the classic human manner through a mixture of displacement activities, making things worse and hiding our heads in the sand.

The sand left by the melted glaciers and vanished ice caps.

This is understandable. The problem seems immense and we seem helpless as individuals to do anything.

That is of course not true. Everything starts with us as individuals. We choose how to respond. Together we change the world.

For those of us in tech, climate change poses some deep existential challenges to our “normal” behaviour.

Let’s start with what should be an obvious act we can all take – “Primum non nocere“, or as we say in medicine, “First do no harm”.

It should be obvious in climate change as in any other emergency that we should start by avoiding harm.

Yet in technology much of what we do, we fund, we prioritise does exactly the opposite.

  • Blockchain uses drastically more power than the alternatives and has no sustainable use.
  • Self-driving cars perpetuate a model of transport which is unsustainable.
  • Using rockets to launch 100’s of satellites into orbit is environmentally unsustainable.

As a technology matures and the forms become fixed then fashion takes over from utility as the core driver. The annual release of interchangeable mobile phones which rely on unsustainable mining techniques and drive environmental collapse is immoral.

And that’s the problem. Once we include the externalities and opportunity costs of monsters such as WeWork, Theranos, Libra and Uber then we are presented with a tech culture that is at the very best amoral.

And that is no longer acceptable. That is no longer sustainable.

We need to face up to our responsibilities as a tech industry. We are supposedly the brightest and the best yet the vast resources of talent, expertise and funding we possess are mainly deployed on activities which make the climate emergency worse.

This cannot be acceptable.

First do no harm.

Let’s change this world for the better.

Let’s talk about how we take that first step.

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