Big Tech’s great men

The Great Men are forever chasing energy and materials. At whatever period in history, we find them striding the earth, seeking out energy and the most precious materials. All to make themselves large, throbbing, energetic, eternal. They dig and they build and they wrap themselves in layers and layers of energy and materials. They believe that they are sons of suns.

The sun-king tech bros are no different. It’s nothing but the same old story repeated again and again, as tribes becomes nations and nations become civilizations and civilizations become empires and empires want to rule everything, and empires collapse after they have exhausted the energy and the materials. And then it all begins again. And each time, we exhaust a bit more of the total, each time we strip a bit more from our environment that cannot be replaced. This time, though, the acceleration is most profound. We’ve never had machines like we have now. We’ve never had technology like we have now.

Big Tech lives by killing the environment. You cannot grow technology. You can only make it, and the only way you can make it is by killing other life. There is simply no other way. What we can try and do is minimize the harm. What we can try and do is make sure that for every piece of technology we can say that more life, more water, more materials, more air, more soil, were saved because of this technology than were lost because of this technology. That will not be an easy accounting though. Not easy at all.

Big Tech has grown big by eating and drinking the environment. It has embraced a planned obsolescence brand-addiction model that means that the more the environment suffers, the more money Big Tech makes. It is disaster capitalism par excellence. At the same time, the societal benefits of Big Tech become less and less, as Big Tech meets fewer and fewer real needs and more and more superficial wants. We are at a point where Big Tech is aggressively building the architecture of a surveillance capitalism police state whose core objective is to have a society of functioning digital addicts whose data and wealth are constantly siphoned into the ravenous Big Tech mouth and belly, and turned into—among other things—some luxury survival bunkers, yachts and private planes for the pantheon of sun-king tech bros.

Why would Big Tech want to destroy the environment? Why would some very intelligent humans want to destroy their very home. Modern wealth and power come from Earth’s materials, or more particularly, from the design and development of those materials into products and services. Or, more particularly, the faster you can churn through these products—the more quickly you can get people to buy new versions, the more money you can make. Big Tech has its hand on an irresistible magic dial. As it twists and makes things faster, its profits jump. More materials, more profit. More energy, more profit. More water, more profit. More e-waste, more profit. This magic dial depends on a dance between software and hardware.

The hardware gets faster and cheaper and with more storage capacity. The software gets bigger and heavier and more processor-intense. The software eats the hardware gains and it can feel like you’re running to stand still. You can now watch 8K video if only you bought a better, bigger, faster phone. And I know you can’t see the difference between 8K video and all those lower standards. That’s not really the point. You can get an 8K phone with 74 cameras. How cool your friends will think you are. Oh, sorry, you can’t access your bank account and other such vital online services that you are now dependent on because you’ve got such an old, clunky phone? Why haven’t you upgraded yet? Are you one of those poor people?

Podcast: World Wide Waste
Interviews with prominent thinkers outlining what can be done to make digital as sustainable as possible.
Listen to episodes