I found the video below interesting in the way it, and it's creators at MAYA Design, provide a perspective of scale in the 'computer age'.
It touches on many issues including the need to change the way we think and act as we pursue being part of the trillions of 'computers'. While I think it fails to really draw some solid conclusions in favor of ending with the concept of "Too much information!" (Hey, we passed that 'millions' ago.), perhaps there are more videos planned to better explore the concept.
However, I was intrigued with the concept of computing as an ecology and the comparison of the trillions of computers to the trillions of cells in the human body. I can't help but take that comparison to the human body a bit further.
As the video points out, nature has solved the problem of trillions. In the comparison, the body has atoms that make up molecules, that make up cells, that make up organs, and those make up systems, etc. What the video fails to point out is that, while the human body has solved it, the history of computing has failed to address the problem of waste.
The human body, when used up and ceases to function, is relatively easily disposable. The human body eventually decays and degrades into organic material that disappears into the natural world. In fact, the only trace of a the body's previous existence is that which we humans have manufactured to surround it…caskets, crypts, clothes…not to mention all the stuff we have left behind.
The waste of the computer age, and it's physical leftovers, is much more difficult to dispose of. In fact, that waste is more pronounced and there is more of it because we dispose of computer related material simply because it becomes 'obsolete', something we don't do with humans.
CNN recently cited that, according to the United Nations Environment Program, around 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste are generated worldwide each year…and that's at the current level. In 2008 a Greenpeace study, "Not in Our Backyard", found that in Europe
only 25 percent of the e-waste was recycled safely. In the U.S. it is
only 20 percent and in developing countries it is less than one
percent. They go on to estimate that 80 percent of e-waste generated worldwide is not properly recycled
Much of this waste is shipped to developing countries. While some of that waste can be repaired and re-purposed by local traders, most is dumped. In fact, a cottage industry and an associated organized crime element has sprung up around e-waste trading. Also, don't forget the impact on the human and environmental health of our planet. Much of this waste contains toxic materials.
While there has been progress in dealing with this waste, with companies using fewer toxic materials and establishing programs that oversee responsible disposal, there is still a long way to go to protect our natural 'trillions' from our computer 'trillions'.
There is a responsibility that falls to all of us who use this technology to further our personal and professional gains to know where our "old" technology is going when we are done with it. While dumping our waste on other countries is nothing new, we interactive professionals, "geeks", continue to champion the building of communities connected by technology. We must all remember, as well as also champion the message, to help keep our world-wide community clean.