• Storing the Stories and Everything Else

    So a few more thoughts may be necessary about technology. Because, even if it’s clearer than ever that the net has its drawbacks, not least it’s mounting contribution to CO2 emissions, it’s probably also clearer than ever that the net isn’t going away any time soon. It’s revolutionised so many facets of life and, at its best, holds huge potential for less energy intensive ways of conducting our lives. Certainly, for anyone involved in information or communications, it’s become all but indispensable. And this means that, for most, it’s a thing we have to work with. It might be better in many respects if people collectively walked away from their screens, but outside neo-primitive bubbles, it’s probably not going to happen.

    And while the arguments go on about the huge amounts of power needed to power and cool the growing pile of server farms, and while we can contribute to those efforts, there are things anyone of us can do to moderate our impacts. One is to use a green search engine like Ecosia, whose server farms are powered by clean technology and whose every search raises money for campaigns to protect the Amazon, however counterintuitive that may seem. Another is that open windows, programmes and switched on machines are still burning up juice. We could do worse than to take a leaf out of the New Home Front initiative and try and remember that a more wartime like approach to energy conservation is as necessary now as ever.

    We need to rediscover a greater awareness towards, if not an abject horror, of wasting energy. And technology could help with that – if a programme existed that could make us more aware of the amount of power our machines are burning up at any given point then perhaps we’d find it easier to take stock. And perhaps somebody somewhere at some stage might need to start thinking about prioritizing what we’re saving on the servers – every book ever written, the pinnacles of learning and literature, or a billion updates on what people had for breakfast or a sea of endless Youtube videos of people eating raw chillies?

    Perhaps most crucially there’s a very important case to look at our overriding relationship with technology. While the internet has its various boons we could maybe remind ourselves that it shouldn’t become an end in itself. Or, to put it another way, we should let the net aid our lives, not become the primary port of call, the dominant preoccupation that overrides everything else great, beautiful and of use in the world. We need to shift the balance in our priorities so that machines remain the servants and their myriad conveniences don’t put them in the driving seat.

    What is really needed then is a greater sense of synthesis, of balance. That might mean for instance that we each of us make more time for reading more books, or spending time with friends or family, or spending more time outdoors and pursuing activities that encourage that. Life infront of a screen has become the modern grindstone – we should take what chances present themselves to spend time away from the glowing allure.

    Particularly worrying then in many respects is the rise of smart phones. Leaving aside their ecological ramifications, the power of one of these machines held in your hands is phenomenal and, while their many uses are clear to see, the addiction to technology they often carry with them are also equally obvious. Someone I knew was so hooked to looking up new music that she almost missed moving house as she couldn’t find it in herself until the very last minute to drag herself away to prepare. We’ve long passed the point whereby it’s clear that technology can really screw you up.

    Is it really such a hardship then, when the work has been done, to switch off the screen and walk out again into the world, remember that the sun and rain on your face holds a kind of richness computers can never emulate? I remember what spurred me to spurn my teenage computer game addiction was the dreams I had after immersion whereby reality had become pixilated and defined by the limitations of the programmers’ imaginations. To say nothing of the huge amount of hours such games ate up. As machines have become more refined the different reality they represent is maybe less stark but arguably no less insidious.

    Knee jerk reactions to technology at large help no one. But we could also be on the threshold of an explosion in rediscovering and pushing human potential. Imagine those untold riches of mnemonics that allowed storytellers in pre-literate cultures to hold such huge swathes of information and lore in their memories. Think of what being the depository of such riches must have felt like – the sense of internal integration and inner wealth. Think of the singers who carry their songs, or of the poet Osip Mandelstam whose life was taken by the Stalinist regime but many of whose poems survived by the fact that his wife had committed them to memory.

    Memorisation and mnemonics represent a kind of potential armoury unassailable by almost anything except not keeping such memories sharp. That’s maybe a more abiding image of who we can be at our best – alive in the woods round a fire with a database of beauty there to access, not hunched in our rooms scrabbling after a fix of information. That said, there’s never a need to be too hardline. One thing can inform another, inspiration comes from many doors and synthesis can prove a fertile ground for helping us remember how things can be. But if we ever did need to bid the internet farewell, somehow I think we could cope.



The posts here originally grew from a website that was set up to advertise a book that describes things a long time ago. That book was always intended to address more than any single issue, even if it encompassed that as well.

At its broadest, I hoped it could help express how things can be when anyone of us acts on behalf of the environment, of their community, of our collective future itself. It was informed by far more than simply the times it describes; it was an attempt to articulate a feeling that has carried on and grown and means more than just a narrow 'us and them'.

I'm mainly working on other writing at the moment but thought there was probably something to be said for keeping these posts online while the issues they deal with remain relevant. I hope you find something on these pages that proves of interest or use as we all rise to meet the new times.

You are viewing the text version of this site.

To view the full version please install the Adobe Flash Player and ensure your web browser has JavaScript enabled.

Need help? check the requirements page.

Get Flash Player