Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.
My great-granddad died in a work accident. He was operating the local windmill when one day things went wrong and he lost his life. I was reminded of this story this week when attending The Conference in Malmo.
Arriving with a train from Barcelona, Kris De Decker was standing in front of the crowd presenting his Low Tech Magazine. Kris used to be a high-tech journalist covering new technological innovations to the gospel of investors and young talent looking for the new-new. However, sooner or later Kris realized that he could not comply to the high-tech vision of sustainability and he diverged his energy into exploring low-tech visions in his online magazine.
Every single day the Internet gets heavier. The websites have more scripts, higher definition images and larger code-bases. What used to take kilobytes takes megabytes, what used to require megabytes now requires gigabytes. The energy consumption of the internet growths faster than the total amount of users and there is no sign of things slowing down.
When websites become heavy it is not only bad for the environment. In large parts of the world the devices and internet grid doesn’t allow for high-speed downloading and uploading, ultimately creating an invisible barrier of accessing the information and content that I can consume sitting in my flat in Copenhagen.
Kris did not go on the stage to talk about technological solutions for how we can beam high-speed internet to “the rest of the world”, instead he asked us a simpler, and much harder question: what if we actually need less?
And now it is time to return back to the windmill. Windmills were builld across Europe in the late 19th century and were corner stone architecture in agriculture. Corn was milled between large stones using the power of the wind. Just like today, occasionally the wind wouldn’t blow leaving the miller with the option to wait another day or mill the corn using a different method - for example by using cows to turn the stones.
Today we expect everything to be online and ready-available all the time. It is great that our hospitals and other key public infrastructure is operating even at night, but it is unlikely that we can manage to shift to a sustainable world without sacrifices. One of those sacrifices could be to ban Netflix and YouTube when there is no sustainable (solar, hydro or wind) energy available. Another sacrifice could be to require the largest websites to have “energy friendly” versions in place when energy is environmental expensive.
Kris himself already started showing the way by setting up his own solar powered server for his Low Tech Magazine. When it has been rainy for too many days the battery runs out and his website switches off. It might sound scary to let the weather decide whether people should be able to interact with your projects, but I think it is pretty clear that we have reached the point where inaction and the continuation of status quo is even more scary.
Highlights from The Conference
I didn’t take time to fall into the Internet blackhole this week, hence I am going to share a few highlights from The Conference with you instead.
Kris De Decker spoke about a low tech vision of the future. Calling for a seasonal production powered by nature, we automatically have less.
Meghan O'Gieblyn linked her own past in the church to the technologists dream of singularity. The path to divinity is incredible similar between those believing in the bible and those in the neurons. I want to expand on this later.
Paul Soulellis started printing the web. It does sound like a stupid idea at first, but then you start to think how often websites actually change and how much information gets lost. Removing information from the internet can be an innocent act, but often it is a power game and we can fight it through maintenance and the slow urgency.
Claire Evans told the story of the women we forgot. Asked what gender the internet has, most would immediately think it is masculine, but up until the 80s, it was much more balanced. For some reason I can’t find Clarie’s talk on the website of The Conference, so instead you have to do with a shorter version she held at least year’s Techfestival.
Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.
This week a friend of mine made me extra happy. Two years ago I had the chance to work together with Aydo on the first version of Techfestival. It was inspiring to work closely with a mind as progressive and sharp as Aydo’s, and the many late-night conversations we had that summer very directly has shaped this newsletter and my ongoing thinking. Therefore my heart made an extra beat when I got the notification from Substack that Aydo had decided to become a paying subscriber. Thank you Aydo.
And as always a big thanks to the (now!) eight Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: Nikolaj, Antal, Søren, Dries, Mikkel, Tina, Aydo & Angela!