Energy and the Intersection of Natural and Technological Resources

Following up on the topic of peak oil that I brought up in the comments yesterday, I wanted to comment on what I think is a somewhat short-sighted Guardian blog post by Charles Arthur. The thrust of Arthur’s argument is that the rising price of oil combined with with the falling cost of internet connectivity will create a future where the analog world cedes more and more to the digital.

If you need a shorthand for thinking about the future, then, it’s this: analogue will be increasingly expensive; digital will be increasingly cheap. Getting in a car or on a train or a plane? Analogue. Expensive. Non-renewable. By contrast, downloading an album, watching a webcast concert, watching TV: digital. Endlessly replicable, virtually instantly transmitted, cheap.

What, in turn, does that mean for our society? Apart from fewer cars on the roads (though possibly with more people sharing rides in them), it means more time working at or near to home, if your work involves things that can be done digitally. For all those jobs that need to be near to physical things – that is, where you make things like cars or food or whatever – you’ll have to be based nearer the place you work.

Of course, this line of thinking begs the question of exactly how Arthur thinks this ever-expanding digital infrastructure will be powered? The same fossil fuels that are used to power cars and planes are needed not only to run the infrastructure that exists, but to create all the physical pieces of that comprise it, both in terms of the actual production process (running the machines that make the machines) and as raw materials (i.e., every piece of plasic involved). Presumably he did not read the 2008 Harper’s piece on Google’s energy consumption.

Of course, to the extent that solar energy technology becomes more prevalent, it seems difficult to imagine how that particular natural resource could be privatized, even though the requisite technologies could still be proprietary.

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One Comment on “Energy and the Intersection of Natural and Technological Resources”


  1. […] of the Commons The Privatization of Cultural, Technological and Natural Resources « Energy and the Intersection of Natural and Technological Resources Def.: Envirotech […]


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