The Internet and Energy

If I asked you the question: “How much energy does the internet use?”, what would your answer be? Would you say the internet uses more energy than… the yearly cost of running a car, a household lamp, etc.? In a recent study it was found that the internet only consumes 1-2% of all global energy use. Wow, I thought it would be way higher than that. I guess telecommuting is WAY more efficient than taking a flight for a conference or meetings. For the full article see here.

The Internet and How We Communicate

Recently I listened to a podcast (Stuff You Should Know) about the internet. The hosts mentioned several interesting ideas that stimulated my own reflections on our current use of the internet and other related communication devices (obviously pertinent to our 125 class). Here are a few smatterings from the podcast and my reflections.

My internet is so dang slow!
Have you ever timed out your internet or router from trying to download something? I have. In fact, it has happened everyday for the past week (ever since I tried to download Apple’s new OS – Lion). It’s so frustrating – and DIGIS claims to provide “high speed broadband internet…” at the astronomically fast 7Mbps! Wow – kill me now. Did you know that Bell Labs reported in May 2011 that they were transferring up to 100 petabytes/sec. (that’s 1,000,000 GB/sec; or that’s like transferring 22,000,000 DVDs in a second). Granted Bell Labs was using laser technology, it still brings up the question, where is the internet going – and why aren’t we there yet? (Side note: the fasted recorded broadband connection is transferring 26 terabytes/sec – that’s 1000 GB/sec).

What’s with the iTunes and Apple App Stores?
So there is currently a “Net Neutrality” movement slowly gaining ground in technology circles. Net Neutrality has to do with basically keeping web content open and equal for all users and publishers. Basically what many people are worried about is a possible censoring of the internet. The best current examples are: Apple’s App store and xBoxLive. Both are corporate sites running their own internets (meaning you can’t access these sites unless you have their devices – i.e., what use would your iPhone be without the app store – you couldn’t even activate your phone). So, think of it this way – they are locking their content, and consequently can control not only the content, but the speed at which you are getting it, allocating bandwidth as they see fit (cool – but kind of… communistic). Imagine if all companies start doing that – or worse they (the big companies) start signing agreements with ISP, causing the ISP to give preference to the sites who pay them the most. That would cause a crazy paradigm shift of financial internet censoring that would kill the “mom and pop” websites of the digital world. The other fight net neutrality is pushing against is the idea of Walled Gardens (again, that’s what Apple’s app store and xBoxLive are) where the user experience is designed and dictated by a corporation in a locked down environment. I am not saying I don’t like this – nor am I saying that I do like this. I am simply bringing this up to highlight the direction and movement of the web.

Texting: Do we have eyes or just thumbs?
Most of the youth in my ward bring their hard copy scriptures to church – but that’s mostly because the church leadership has requested they read their scriptures the “old fashion” way (no more reading the Epistle of Paul on your iPhone – thank you). There was a report that several of the missionaries at the MTC had never “cracked” their book copy scriptures until arriving at the MTC – having only accessed and read their scriptures electronically. Hmm – crazy. Again, I don’t have an opinion to share (I do have a private opinion on the matter). What I do find interesting, is that as people use and communicate with each other (or their scriptures, as in my example above) electronically – we are changing the social fabric of society. Consider the fact that most universities are now offering job interviewing classes – where students are taught how to make eye contact and write cover letters and memos without using texting vernacular. The funny thing with eye contact is that – it doesn’t happen very often. Next time you are riding the subway or just “hanging out” in a public place notice how many top of heads you see, in comparison to the number of eyes you make contact with. I am guessing people are faster with their thumbs nowadays than they are with writing a pen and paper note. And, might I end with one last question – how many of us would prefer to text someone rather than call them? And when we have to make the phone call we’d prefer to receive the voicemail? You can’t tell me the social fabric of how we communicate hasn’t been impacted. Again – I’m not saying that’s good or bad – it’s just a different fabric – and it’s how we use it and wrap ourselves in it that will ultimately determine if the fabric is good or bad.