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Sustainable computing

  1. Apr 20, 2009 #1
    How sustainable is computing? I spend several hours working on a computer each day and I am worried that this practice is not sustainable and/or not scalable to the entire world population. What do you guys think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2009 #2

    I don't worry about sustainable computing or scalability. Not everyone uses computer due to technology constraints (100$ laptops look promising - http://laptop.org/en/).

    Mostly profit maximizing firms provide these technologies. I don't know what you meant by scalability. But technology constraints and profits and demand supply takes care of that. You can't say like lets set lower or upper limit on the computer users. I think expanding beyond what's scalable doesn't look possible.
  4. Apr 20, 2009 #3


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    Turning off lights in rooms that aren't being used and driving less matter far more than computers in terms of sustainability. There's plenty of power to power a laptop for everyone in the world, but not enough for a car for everyone.

    Look up the stats for number of hours a TV is on in an American household and multiply by average power consumption. The savings there could nearly cover your computer use!
  5. Apr 20, 2009 #4
    I mean if everyone in the world wanted to use a computer as much as e.g. Americans do. Can we supply enough energy for that? Can we supply enough energy for that while not destroying the environment or the planet? My worry is that it seems unfair for Americans to use computers as much as we do if there are energy or environmental constraints that would prevent everyone in the world from doing the same even if they could afford it.

    What is your source for that? I am dying to find a trustworthy source for information like that.
  6. Apr 20, 2009 #5


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    Yes. My rough calculation (based on worldwide power production) is that if power was used only for computers, each person on Earth could run over 100 reasonably energy-efficient laptops (or a smaller number of desktops) 24 hours a day. In other words, if all users of power cut their consumption by 1%, there would be more than enough to power a laptop for everyone.

    That's without any funny tricks like using solar-powered chargers.

    That's a harder question, as we're not succeeding at that goal now, let alone with your hypothetical future with more energy use. But at this point your question isn't about computers at all, since their share of energy expenditures is so small.
  7. Apr 20, 2009 #6
    Interesting. Have you also considered the amount of energy that goes into producing/ recycling computers? That is, have you considered the entire computer life cycle? All of the hardware inside a computer is very very artificial so I imagine it takes a lot of energy to produce. Sure that is only a "one time cost" but computers don't last forever.

    I really wish there was a book or an article or something that analyzed how bad our addiction to computers is.
  8. Apr 20, 2009 #7
    I really with you would stop making nonsense posts. What is "addition to computers" supposed to mean? Could you try using google? ......seriously, please.
  9. Apr 20, 2009 #8
    I'm usually cursing at the linker by that point.
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