The magically efficient oven

A friend of mine bought a new oven that he says is the most efficient of all the ovens he’s ever tested. (He’s big into this sort of stuff.) He says that this oven is so special that it doesn’t matter how much you cook in it, it’s still the same basic cost. The more you cook, the better, basically. So I went around to have a look.

The oven is called 1G Oven. It’s an oven that is always on at maximum capacity, yet it’s designed in such a way that they say it’s green, sustainable and super-efficient per potato baked in comparison to conventional ovens. Basically, baking a potato with this oven is 10 times cheaper and more energy efficient than baking a potato with those old stupid ovens that you have to turn on and wait for to heat up, and then turn off when you’re finished. This is an always-on, all-you-can-bake oven.

His house was full of baked potatoes, baked pies, baked bread, stuff that you didn’t even know you could bake. My friend has also put on a bit more weight and is staying in more now that he has his magically efficient oven and so many baked potatoes to eat. Even though he’s eating more than perhaps he should, there’s an awful lot of food going to waste, because he just takes one bite and then gets bored and goes on to another food he’s just baked.

“Do you know how many potatoes you can bake in a 24-hour period?” he asked me enthusiastically.
“No,” I replied, “but I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”
“480!” He looked at me expectantly.
“Wow,” I said. “Impressive.”
“And it’s so much cheaper per potato.”
“I know, I know. You told me that already. In fact, you told me that at least ten times in the last week.”
“The total electricity bill is a bit higher, though,” he finally admitted, though he wouldn’t tell me by how much. “Even though it’s not nearly as high as you might think for an oven that’s fully on 24-7.”

My friend needs help, I thought, as I left his apartment. We all need help. We live in a world of crazy ovens that are on at maximum capacity 24-7. Networks, routers, data centers are all designed like crazy ovens, wasting huge quantities of materials and energy because digital is a culture of addiction and waste and always-on, always-available convenience. If you have to turn something on and off, that’s at least some sort of break in relation to how much or how often you use it, but if it’s always on then its use can explode into your life and command more and more of your time and attention.

“Network infrastructure is designed to be always on and ready for maximum capacity," as network expert Ben Schwarz told me. “All of these things have to be designed to handle their maximum capacity. When an operator puts a base station in, they say, well, up to how many simultaneous mobile devices do I need to cater for in this space? If it’s 100,000, then they will build it for that and the power consumption will be a direct relation to that. The power consumption is not really linked to the usage of networks.”

When they tell you that it doesn’t matter how much data you use, that’s what they mean. The network has been designed for maximum capacity, so it’s costing the same to move one megabyte down it as it costs to move 100 terabytes. Which is like my friend with the crazy oven claiming that it’s efficient and green per potato baked. But that ‘efficiency’ only works if you’re baking 480 potatoes a day. They’re now planning a 2G oven that will have a capacity of 1,500 potatoes per day. Are you excited?

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Podcast with Ben Schwarz: Ben Schwarz: Is 5G a good thing or not?

Podcast: World Wide Waste
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