An ongoing list of instances that illustrate why we need to think about the material finiteness & ecological fragility of the digital age (started in June 2021).

June 2021: the worst flooding in 50 years along the Congo river causes a massive undersea avalanche in the Atlantic ocean rupturing submarine cables and disrupting internet traffic in West Africa. The consequences of climate change, flooding and fires can be far-reaching – especially in terms of the submerged infrastructure that constitutes the physical networked connections of the internet. Experts reckon that this event is likely to have gone unnoticed had it not slowed data traffic between Nigeria and South Africa. Presumably it would have been noticed a lot quicker if it had compromised internet connections in Northern Europe, North America, Singapore or other over-served high-tech hubs?

June 2021. Global chip shortage to slow laptop production until at least next year: A worldwide shortage of semi-conductors is disrupting the supply-chain for computers, phones and gaming consoles, as well as computer-reliant products such as new cars. Companies estimate that they can only meet 50% of demand – which has been boosted by people working from home during the COVID pandemic, and chip-hungry markets such as gaming technology and crypto-currency mining. While promising to develop more ‘enviro-friendly’ products, laptop manufacturers present themselves as prioritising education – which is presumably a smart marketing strategy given the COVD-related boom in remote online learning:

“We shipped millions of education devices last year [and] this year. That is simply because we believe people really deserve a right to be able to continue their living and learning.”

This raises the tricky question of who continues to get prioritised in even more restricted times … at what point does health or defence technology outrank the IT needs of education? What families and students are most in need (… or perhaps most profitable)?