Tech’s Climate Change Paradox, Retaliation at Google, and Elon Musk’s Twitter Babysitter
This week in tech
One of my favorite technology publications, MIT Technology Review, published a new issue focused entirely on climate change this month. As the introductory article makes clear, climate change is a crisis with technology at its heart: Technological advancements paved the way for humanity’s destructive behavior. Perhaps paradoxically, many of the most promising ideas for mitigating and reversing the causes and impacts of climate change involve leaning into technology solutions.
Jakarta is sinking into the ocean and New York may not survive rising tides either. California and Australia face increasingly devastating wildfires. Warming oceans threaten global biodiversity and accelerate the speed at which glaciers are melting. The technologies that power modern life allowed us to create these problems, but leaning into technology might be the only way back out. Reforestation helps, but isn’t enough on it’s own. The current situation is dire, but there is still hope.
Researchers are working on technology to convert air conditioning units into carbon capturing devices. Scientists have found a way to dramatically speed up coral growth in the ocean’s equivalent of reforestation. Bioengineering efforts are underway to make plants more effective at storing carbon. And big data collection could be used to improve weather predictions, which could help mitigate the impact of disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes. Lab grown meat could reduce demand for raising livestock, which is a significant contributor to warming. And, for the first time, renewable energy surpassed energy produced by coal for the first time in U.S. history this April.
Hopefully a larger percent of tech investment will be given to climate-oriented efforts instead of the convenience increasing apps of what Jesse Weaver calls The Reliance Economy in a piece for OneZero.
In social tech news: The workers at Google who organized the walkout in November over sexual harassment and assault issues say they are facing retalition from the company. Undeterred, they have planned further demonstrations. Wired reports that H-1B visa rejections have spiked under the Trump administration. Politico published a great essay about defending workers in the age of automation. Facebook has set aside $3 billion to pay a fine the FTC is expected to levy against the corporation related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. And a federal judge ordered Elon Musk to get a lawyer to review all his tweets.