Digital Contributing to Climate Crisis

Gerry McGovern writes in his latest newsletter: Digital Contributing to Climate Crisis:

According to “The Cost of Music,” a joint study penned by the University of Glasgow and the University of Oslo, greenhouse gases were recorded at 140-million kilograms in 1977 for music production activities (vinyl; plastic packaging). Moreover, they were at 136 million kilograms in 1988 and 157 million in 2000. In 2016, the age of streaming, greenhouse gases were estimated between 200- and 350-million kilograms in the U.S. alone.

“Storing and processing music online uses a tremendous amount of resources and energy,” Dr. Kyle Devine, an associate professor in music from the University of Oslo explained, “which has a high impact on the environment.”

Furthermore, I read an article a while ago, which said that the amount of energy consumed by a voice assistant while turning the lights off or on is significantly greater than the amount of energy required for a human to get up and turn the lights off or on.

Bet you thought doing everything online was guilt-free or carbon net zero. But vinyl is made from petroleum, so that is bad too, right? Do we go back to 8-tracks? Cassettes?

I know that I have been giving more thought to the volume of data I keep ‘online’/in the Cloud. Photos, documents. All this stuff takes server space which also means electricity and energy. Whereas before I had been keeping things redundantly on different servers/platforms, I’m trying to trim down my ‘digital footprint’ as well.

It also raises an interesting question with regards to my kids and the next generation of data users/hoarders. My kids will be of the first generation to grow up completely ‘online’. As such, when they move out, presumably, I’ll have to facilitate some sort of ‘massive data transfer’ of all their photos, documents and other ephemera that are currently stored on the ‘family’ computer. There’s a discussion there to be had and a protocol to be established for sure. In the case of my oldest, she has already set up her own Flickr Pro account to house all her photos.

I can see it coming as a bit of a shock down the road though, so should probably get started planning now.

“Congratulations on your new place, son! Here’s your 17 terabytes of ‘crap’ – find somewhere to store it! Mom and I will be in our cabin in the woods if you need anything.”

Also, get your lazy ass up and turn the lights on and off.

Neurointerventions Could Hijack the Free Will You Think You Actually Have

We aren’t really in control so why worry about neurointerventions? – aeon.co

“But I want to suggest that the loss of control that might be delivered by some neurointerventions is not really the issue because we are never actually in control anyway, even though it might seem that we are. The real issue is that the subjects of these neurointerventions might become alienated from their own thoughts and behaviours.”

Hazem Zohny

Everyone likes to talk about the prospect that eventually, we won’t have smartphones anymore, there’ll just be chips implanted right in your head, and possibly wired directly into your brain.

What will that mean for our decision-making and thought process? What if advertisers and companies could buy insertion into our subconscious? We already have algorithms that can predict our moods and tailor advertising accordingly, wouldn’t it be the next step to just rig some to actually put you in the mood – or make the decision for you – to buy something before you even knew it?

Ethically, one would have to think that there would be some sort of oversight with regards to this kind of tech, however, once the circuitry is in place, it would be rife for the hacking. Obviously everyone thought Facebook would be just groovy forever and look what it’s gotten us now.

I’ll be sticking with my ‘ancient’ iPhone SE for now.

‘Light ‘ Phone Experiment Observations

So back in my post about the Light Phone 2 – I decided to give it a go with setting up my iPhone as much like a Light Phone 2 as possible and give it 2 weeks. Visit my first post to see what I stripped the phone down to. Here’s some observations.

Day Two

Already got weirded out a few times that I couldn’t check email on the phone. Decided I had to let it go. When I finally got to email on a desktop, I found that really, there was nothing there that important. I’m working on sort of settling into ‘not knowing’ what’s in the Inbox at all times. When I can accept that, it’s somewhat liberating. There was a bunch of news today based on a WSJ story about third-party apps sending info to Facebook and/or tracking users making me wonder about keeping Messenger on my phone. The caveat has always been that a few very close connections use it almost exclusively and it’s easy for things like sharing links and photos, but I am starting to wonder if I want to keep using it on principle.

I’ve also realized how regularly I use some browser bookmarks – and with only Safari on my phone and Chrome as my primary desktop browser, they aren’t available. I could of course duplicate them in Safari, but that defeats the point of trying to streamline things. This is one reason I’ve often jumped back and forth from Chrome to Safari in the past. I’ve always wanted one solution. Safari has always been clunky and slower than Chrome and is not the best browser for web development. I’ve also had issues with the Last Pass extension not working consistently in Safari on the desktop. I do like Safari’s ‘Reading List’ feature though – something Google is now using but is not available on desktops – yet – unless you’re using an Android device. Instead I just made a ‘Junk Drawer’ bookmarks folder in Chrome. Will have to consider if all this is a big enough deal to dump Chrome as my default browser on the desktops.

Day Three

So interestingly, other than weather (which I can check out on my watch), I really have no need check my phone at all until I get to work in the mornings now. Indeed with no email on the phone, unless I get a notification of a text or a call – I have no need to ‘check’ my phone at all. I have already on several occasions caught myself picking up the phone, unlocking it and staring at it like “what am I doing here” then remembering, oh yeah, there’s nothing here for you.

Day Four

I nuked Facebook Messenger. Told the few contacts I regularly used it with that I’m available via text, voice or email, take your pick. I’m down to only stock Apple apps. I realize that Apple is very likely tracking my usage and stats, but to some extent I have to think that their stock apps have no reason to share data outside the Apple OS. Most significantly, today I realized I no longer have any reason to take my phone to the bathroom. Ahem.

Day Five

Prior to this experiment, I was averaging an hour and a half of phone screen time per day – that was even without social media. Currently down to 20 mins or so. Today I added 2 apps back, Scanner Pro and my banking app – both apps that I use almost daily and I find very useful.

Day Ten

At home, my phone sits on the dresser. I don’t carry it around the house. Granted, my Apple Watch lets me know if there’s a call or a text if I don’t hear the phone itself, but I’m no longer really looking for it in general when I’m out and about. I put it in my backpack when I’m in the car. Bluetooth lets me answer calls – and I’m even thinking of disconnecting that. Do I really need to talk to someone on the phone when I’m driving? There was a time when we as a species didn’t and somehow we managed. As a parent of a kid currently taking driving instruction and who will be driving soon, I’m becoming more cognizant of what message I’m sending – even if it’s only subconsciously.

Day Twelve

I had to cave and put email back on the phone. Too much of life hinges on it. Hockey coaches, teachers, and a slew of other businesses/clubs/institutions all still use it as a primary and immediate source of contact or news dissemination even though there’s been tons of different articles proclaiming its demise as a communications medium. Also, email as an archive of information is invaluable and I didn’t realize how often I go back and ‘look something up’ or check an old email for reference.

I did really enjoy not having it on the phone and having to be more intentional about checking email at a desktop. I had established a habit of deliberately checking mail once a day – more the way you would with snail mail – and responding to and addressing issues at that time. This simple act had 2 pleasurable effects. First, there was the satisfying feeling of getting something done, i.e. “Ok, checked my mail, now on to the next thing.”

Second, the act of sitting down and responding to emails in one shot meant I spent more time with replies, especially with the consideration that I probably wouldn’t be getting back to check mail for another 24 hours or so. I could definitely see myself without immediate access to email – i.e. on the phone – once things involving kids slow down or go away all together. For now it will have to stay.

Disconnected the phone from the car via Bluetooth. Now when I’m driving, I’m just driving.

In Closing

One Screen to Rule Them All…

Overall, it’s been a positive experience/experiment. The only other apps I added back were my password manager app ( I do need access to passwords and such sometimes when at a client’s office or elsewhere and as IT/Support guy for our family I’m always getting asked for passwords) and the Voice Memos app which I do use for voice memos and also sometimes I just make recordings of sounds.

The Organizational Demon in my head is satisfied as well because what I’ve got fits on one phone screen with no empty spaces and no swiping. I’ve kind of made that the ‘box’ I’m confining myself to.

Ultimately, in answer to my original query of whether or not I could switch to the actual Light Phone 2 – I think the answer would be, yes – but only at a point when my family calendar was considerably less packed – and I’m responsible for accessing less information on behalf of others. There’s still the issue of photos – which I do use my phone for a lot, so in an ideal world, my ‘light phone’ would still have a camera. For now I think I’ve ‘lightened’ my current iPhone considerably as well as lightening my usage of it, both of which have been positive.

Apple ‘Light’ Phone Experiment

My buddy Steve posted over on his site about ordering up one of the forthcoming Light Phone 2’s – basically a stripped down phone that does calls, messaging and that’s about it.

The prospect was appealing to me, and fatefully enough checking with my mobility provider tells me that the contract is up on my trusty iPhone SE at the end of this month. Fate? I dunno.

I’m painfully impulsive when it comes to things like this so as hard as it is, I’m going to exercise discipline and not pull the trigger immediately on a Light Phone. Instead, I’ll use Steve’s experience with it as research.

However, it occurred to me that one could practically render the iPhone a ‘Light Phone’ by dumping all the apps, or as much as the OS will allow, so as an experiment, I decided to do that. The surprise was that it was really hard to think about not using some apps, let alone deleting them – a telling indication for sure and perhaps a reason I won’t be able to go for the actual Light Phone in the long run, but we’ll see.

For the record, I’ve neutered my phone down to:

Lean Mean Home Screen
  • Activity App – Syncs with my Apple Watch;
  • App Store – must use, can’t get rid of it;
  • Calendar – even thinking about getting rid of this gave me the shakes. Trying to keep track of 6 family members without access to this would be a nightmare. Probably the reason right here that I’ll never go Light Phone;
  • Camera – can’t get rid of it;
  • Clock – can’t get rid of it;
  • Contacts – basically for phone/messaging purposes;
  • Facebook Messenger – still my main source of comms with many people;
  • Find iPhone – can’t get rid of it;
  • Health – can’t get rid of it, and I actually use it;
  • iMessage – can’t get rid of it, don’t want to;
  • Music – this was a tough one, but I use the phone to listen to music on the bike trainer and other places, so I kept it. I don’t use it in the car or at work though;
  • Notes – I use Notes for everything. All the time. I’ve got so much stuff in there;
  • Phone – can’t get rid of it, don’t want to;
  • Photos – can’t get rid of it;
  • Safari – can’t get rid of it;
  • Settings – can’t get rid of it;
  • Wallet – can’t get rid of it;
  • Watch – can’t get rid of it, well, if you want to use the watch;
  • Weather – I can get rid of this, but I need it in order to display weather on the watch, which I do use often.

I buried all the apps in a folder on the task bar at the bottom because they can mostly be accessed by a swipe right and/or search. For the most part, swiping right, Siri is pretty good about knowing what app I’m looking for and offers it up via witchcraft.

Notable exclusions/things that gave me pause about deleting:

  • Email – yup. No more email on the phone. This could prove problematic as lots of family business and updates are sent via email, but we’ll see;
  • ScannerPro – an app that I used to scan paper documents to GoogleDrive. Very good at what it does and useful for getting rid of paper clutter. I don’t use it often, but when I do, it’s great. I’m already thinking I will re-install this the next time I want it without hesitation;
  • Banking App – not sure how often I actually used this – guess we’re gonna find out;
  • Password Manager – all my passwords are still accessible on my desktops, but sometimes I had to look one up;
  • Chrome – I loathe the Safari mobile app. Also use Chrome on my desktops so I won’t get bookmark/history sync anymore;
  • Feedly – I can access this on desktop too, but on the phone it was my go-to time-killer. Got a few minutes? Find some articles on Feedly. Guess I’ll have to stare at a wall, or – gasp – talk to strangers now.

So that’s it, one screen. I’ll see what this gets me. Going to go two weeks from today and then review how things went and post up here.

Nanoscape

My buddy and fellow cyclist Geoff Williams (gewilli to his peeps) has a side gig going on posting artwork from Electron Microscopes. Fascinating stuff. He recently had a print exhibition at the Chazan Gallery in Rhode Island. Check him out on instagram and twitter. I hear he plays a mean fiddle as well.

From the Gallery Exhibition Website:

For over 20 years Geoff Williams has been honing his craft as an electron microscopist. Each image that he collects is an expression of his sensibilities. The dynamic interplay of shape and grayscale values speaks to him. From that first image Williams collected on a scanning electron microscope (SEM) until now, he has been consistently striving to master a technique that engages this scientific tool towards a goal of sharing this world through his personal lense.
Williams’ images provide a tactile and striking view of samples we may or may not encounter in our day-to-day lives.  These samples can come from very diverse sources, from food to tiny fragments of the custom bicycle making process, to broken or discarded bits. Williams strives to present them as inspiring visuals, hoping to draw in and engage the audience in a way that is not possible in any other expressive form. The unique three dimensionality of these SEM works has the potential to decouple any a priori connection a viewer might have, while at the same time fostering a powerful de novo relationship to the subjects.