The interesting article in the NYT this weekend regarding the use, or overuse, of energy by data centers, is right at the heart of the Current Sea Wars.
Economics is about Politics, politics, politics. And therefore Power. So if power is held in the hands of an ever decreasing minority, all economics will be bent on serving their needs.
Ten years ago in Time magazine's "Green(!) Issue", they ran an article explaining how much more green it was to order a book through Amazon, than to go to your local book dealer and buy one there. Adding into the energy cost the fuel burned to get there, (as though people leave their house and rush out to buy a book, when in reality, they do so when they're out doing other errands instead), made it, I felt, an unfair comparison.
At the time I was in South Sioux City doing network installation for Gateway Computers, and was well acquainted with the overall energy consumption of these huge date centers that gobbled up power and sucked up A/C (air conditioning). And as the NYT article suggests, it's only gotten worse ... far worse ... since then.
How could it possibly be otherwise? Each Amazon purchase is supported by an infrastructure of enormous complexity and extensively backed-up data using electro-static memory devices. Like the transistors of which they are composed, the computers have to be "biased" by constant voltage, like a baseball player, or Tennis player, stoked and ready for the next service request, the computers have to constantly "spin their wheels" to check for interrupts that the processor needs to service and then forward its packet to the next server, gateway, router or switch in the network. And as if this weren't enough, using electric wire, not fiber, like much of the data backbone the service requests rides over to get to the switch, it is copper. And electrons flowing over copper wire always and everywhere produce the byproduct of heat.
Which brings us to the best-known energy hog in modern existence, the air-conditioner.
Without a/c there simply would be no internet. Although on an individual basis, the components that comprise the switching equipment in remote locations are without the stringent cooling requirements of the old Mainframe-based proprietary networks, the concentration of the devises in data centers generates so much heat that their operation would be fatal to the internal components without external cooling; and lots of it. But that doesn't mean that these data centers are built anywhere near locations that could use all the excess heat they pump out, the main concern is instead, how low the taxes are in said location.
As if those (Amazon is a good example) businesses on the internet don't get enough unfair advantages over their more terrestrial-based competitors as it is. NO SALES TAX for the same article you would pay sales tax for if it were a local purchase, plus free shipping are two boonies without which the internet would not exist in the form it does today.
And using cheap power at that - subsidized by your tax dollars, as every form of carbon-based energy is, via depletion allowancees, land-rights, and a thousand other nods to the energy-wasting industry. So just as we built bigger and bigger trucks and cars during the nineties, even as fossil fuel became more and more scarce and the sources we bought it from more and more inimical to our interests, so today, even as the supply of electricity becomes more and more problematic, and the delivery system creakier and leakier, we turn a larger and larger part of our everyday vital functions into computerized hostages, completely unable to do the simplest task without electronic intervention.
There is absolutely nothing "green" about this state of affairs, nor anything "secure". A product of the Defense Department grown from its initial RLG (Research Libraries Group) network, that I was involved with at its initial installation at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Ca, it was devised and implemented by Darpanet, where the "D" stands for defense (originally it was Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET)). Then it was an X.25 network riding over a backbone of Telematix switches, and was inaccessible to anyone outside RLG.
Then the fight was raging over OS, not operating system, but Open System, such that a subsystem curiously resembling IBM's SNA architecture would be more-or-less laid over the public network. Thus non-IBM Sperry-Univac, or Burroughs computers could send data to the then-dominant IBM world. What was eventually apparent as a growing problem, to anyone from the IBM world, was the very openness, and therefore insecurity, of the standard being proposed.
In other words, the very structure that was built by our own defense department for our "security" was the very tool that the perpetrators of that other perfect storm to hit Manhattan, the attacks of 9/11, were brought to us by. It was not the military's presence in Saudi Arabia, against all Muslim laws of that land, that enabled that assault - that was only the incentive. To spring the attack on us required something they never could have developed or used if the Pentagon's and the other best minds of the US, had not all been bent on the destruction of Labor's power by enabling the complete off-shoring of it's most polluting and high-margin manufacturing. A process which was used, quite consciously, to remove any voice of resistance from the people and to complete the build-up of the total Security Surveillance State: the gentler kinder SS.
People may scoff at you if you suggest the WTC pancaking collapse or building 7's subsequent implosion as being effected by having explosives in themto bring them down, but the technology and the infrastructure that Bin Laden and AL Qaeda used to plan and carry out their atrocity were all supplied to them, albeit indirectly, via the American Military: that is not conspiracy theory or fanciful thinking, that is simply fact.
And now, they want us to believe that the forces that are burning ever and ever greater amounts of fossil fuels and therefore pouring enormous, and ever-increasing, volumes of CO2 into the troposphere, just to GET the resource, are "Green".
We are fools. Me, for sitting at this marvel of the modern age and spewing forth invective about the very system that gives me the tools needed to do so: the internet and this PC I spend hours sitting at researching and typing, and the rest of you for really, actually believing the tripe they spoon out, making me feel it's necessary to enlighten you (but who the fuck am I? Why should/would anyone listen to me?!). We're all fools. This isn't the Titanic, the "Economic Collapse" blog would have us liken the sinking ship of state to, it is more like Katherine Ann Porter's "The Ship of Fools".