Environmental Protection

Another social issue is the protection of the environment, something that cannot be circumvented or ignored. After all, the pope (a representative of perhaps the most conservative institution in the world) states that:

When we talk about the 'environment', we also mean one special relationship, namely that between nature and the society that inhabits it. This prevents us from considering nature as something separate from us or a mere framework of our lives. We are involved in it, we are part of it, and it permeates us… To talk about authentic development, it is necessary to verify that there is an overall improvement in the quality of human life, and this includes an analysis of the space in which people live. The environment in which we live affects our outlook on life, our feelings, and our actions. In our room, our house, and our neighborhood, we use the environment to express our identity. We strive to adapt to the environment. Our efforts to develop an integrative and happy identity are put to the test if it is disordered, chaotic, or saturated with visible and audible pollution.

This text shows two dimensions of the environment that need to be reflected in technology. The first is the relationship between the environment and the quality of human life. In our previous considerations on health protection, we have considered how a correctly set up system of working with data enables a person to live a healthy life in the information society. It is essential to ensure that technologies serve humans and minimize their negative impact on the environment. However, the whole issue can also be framed positively - technologies allow many processes and activities in our environment to change so that they benefit the entire ecosystem.        

From a certain macroscopic point of view, it could be said that it is technologies that make it possible to carry out effective regulation of energy networks, logistics, or even production to reduce emissions or waste total resources. Although this topic does not fall directly within digital competencies, it is a source of reflection on how technology is changing the environment. On the one hand, their production is expensive and demanding for nature, but at the same time, it makes it possible to work much more environmentally friendly in many respects. For example, the environment in London at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was undoubtedly less healthy than it is today

Pope Francis rightly points out that the environment has both a macroscopic dimension and local aspects - it is necessary to perceive the use of technology in a framework that will be maximally friendly to both nature and the individual. In this context, Jan Sokol points out that man is the only creature with no natural environment. We might call it a natural environment for a human ancestor where most of us would not survive long. Man, then, is like a creature called to shape and constitute his environment actively. So if someone feels better in a space without technology, it is their private opinion that must be respected, but at the same time, it is not possible to argue with it by nature.    

The digital technologies environment can be both physical, such as an office or home layout, and digital. It is crucial to reflect certain environmental principles in the context of cyberspace. In education, we can talk about a unique learning environment, which should be an environment to live in. Therefore, it cannot be approached by unacceptable methods for the environment - clogging and not removing unused or harmful elements from it, overfilling it unnecessarily, etc. We believe that the general principles of environmental protection can be easily applied (to some extent) to cyberspace as well.  

At the same time, there is no fixed line between “here and there". It is necessary to consider the place of technology in the environment, both in terms of their physical location and the context of the processes associated with them or ergonomics. At the same time, it must be said that digital technologies are, for many people, the primary working tool, but also a source of entertainment, communication, education, or social interaction. In other words, information and communication technologies are essentially ecological about people.  

Energy efficiency

If we are talking about environmental or carbon footprints in the context of modern technologies, this will be a topic that can touch every individual and the technology they use, for example, energy intensity, or to what device with such power and in what mode it is used for different tasks.     

An example is the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which consumes about 0.5% of the world's total electricity production. Estimating the actual consumption is difficult, but it turns out that an online product primarily serving for financial speculation has non-trivial environmental impacts.   

Only the mining (and operation) of such a currency represents a tremendous environmental burden. We did not include other costs in it, especially for producing graphics cards, without which mining is entirely unprofitable. Due to the high demand for cryptocurrencies, graphics cards are a particular and exciting commodity beyond Moore's Law - their price is extremely high, almost non-declining (in the last two years), and many models are considered scarce goods.    

Bitcoin is not the only cryptocurrency. The global cost of mining and operation increases electricity consumption, which should consider the extent to which the use of cryptocurrencies is ethically and environmentally acceptable.

This is just one demonstration (and media-grateful) of how technologies can hurt the environment without the user being able to see and experience the specific manifestations of these phenomena easily.

On the contrary, what virtually every user experiences is reflected in the energy intensity of the device they use. He usually has to ask himself whether he needs an application on his phone that takes away a high part of his flashlight, or whether it is appropriate to have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on his mobile device, even if he is just walking around the city, etc. As devices become mobile, they provide a clear and tangible experience with energy efficiency and allow users to change user behavior relatively straightforwardly. The benefit in the form of longer battery life is somewhat objective and explicit. Therefore, digital competencies undoubtedly include the ability to determine the consumption of individual applications or functions of mobile devices and use them effectively so that on the one hand they serve their purpose well, but at the same time so that the device can be used effectively.     

Undoubtedly, digital competencies also include the idea of ​​what kind of battery we have in a given device and what its charging cycle should look like. An adequately set battery charging policy can have a significant impact on service life and endurance. This area also includes topics such as fast charging or the use of power banks. 

Moral obsolescence

The concept of moral obsolescence is an interesting phenomenon that exists more markedly in the context of digital technologies than in most classical industries. While physical life can be defined as the time for which a particular product works (to a reasonably satisfactory extent), moral life refers to the subjective feeling of the user. After exceeding it, the product usually continues to function. Still, the user is no longer interested in it and replaces it with a new one.  

The most noticeable can be seen in the example of mobile phones, which few people buy only when the old one stops working. Still, the acquisition is the desire for a more excellent, more modern, faster or fashionable product.

Traditionally, the concept of moral obsolescence is placed in the context of a consumer society, i.e. a society based on the rapid turnover of goods, on purchases, which are unnecessary in terms of rational calculations, etc. 

Moral obsolescence has significant environmental impacts - the consumption of precious metals, and plastics, and other substances needed for the production of equipment are considerable. The possibilities for effective recycling are relatively limited. Therefore, moral obsolescence can be perceived as a problematic phenomenon from a certain point of view, which could perhaps be reflected in education.  

Although we do not want to reduce this level of obsolescence of goods (and the knowledge that such a thing exists is essential for life in the information society), we would like to try to point out the other side. Moral obsolescence is a specific ideal type that appears in the real world relatively rarely in its pure form.     

An example is a new phone - it is being replaced not by the same model but by a new device. But it has unique and better features, more convenient operation, or lower power consumption. In other words, it brings benefits either for health and mental well-being, for work efficiency or entertainment, or the environment. It is usually the intersection of all these factors. Therefore, it is necessary to critically and systematically reflect on the individual areas in which moral obsolescence occurs and look at them from a broader and more complex perspective.   

It must be emphasized that an argument such as “you did not need such a function before, and now you do, so it is necessary or unnecessary" is not valid. Technological change naturally offers new possibilities, and society is not static. A person's new functions on a new device are not primarily his “ resentment“, but a simple development.

Many manufacturers support obsolescence in some respects - for example, they do not offer operating system upgrades to older phones, forcing the customer to make new and new purchases, even though the older phone could support the new features. Another example is components that will damage the device after the warranty period has expired (usually not “detonators", but components with an artificially shorter service life than the rest of the product) and forces the customer to make a new purchase. Reflections on the longer-term care of facilities and services associated with this activity should undoubtedly be part of the basic framework of considerations, such as the choice of equipment brand.   

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