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Garbage in the Oceans and Reflections on Computers

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There are two stories that are worth mentioning again. The one is the incredible amount of garbage in our oceans. The second is more general, and related to this blog only in a very general way: computers are important for scientists and engineers, they are at the moment at the centre of my daily work, and hence it might be appropriate to reflect on them.

Garbage and Poison in the Oceans

I’ve posted and twittered about garbage in the Pacific that threatens and kills Albatrosses repeatedly (in 2007, in October 2009, and in November 2009).

The area in the pacific which is most severely polluted with plastic now has a name, “the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch” — even though I’m not sure what’s great about it other than its size. It is featured on position eight of the top 9 eco-stories of 2009 and there are articles including animations around now at the mother nature network or at public radio international(link via @JeremiahOsGo)).

There even is a twitter account called “oceanplastics” where you can “read the latest buzz about plastics in our oceans”.

There also is Leah Lamb, who took the 1 Green Thing Challenge: I’ll be removing 559 POUNDS of garbage out of the ocean — read more about this web2.x initiative at her blog post.

Reflections on Computers

netzpolitk.org has linked to an article by Detlef Borcherts entitled “Die Zukunft, die nicht geschehen ist”. In 1997, IBM celebrated its 70s year of existence. The German office of IBM contributed to the “birthday” a study that should outline how the use of computers could look like in the year 2010. Some of the thoughts have actually happened, like

“until 2010 the computer will be a commonly used tool. Human beings will be used to the fact that computers are useful, and also that the computer is superior in many areas, and that human beings don’t want or can’t abstain from them. Typical for today [1987] is that we have no feeling whatsoever which areas that might be”

There are many more thoughts in this study whose lead-author was Theo Lutz, who has learned programming on a Z22 and who worked on “stochastic texts“, which by itself is a very interesting topic.

Borcherts mentions that the study was influenced by a verdict of the German Federal Constitutional Court from 1983, which granted every citizen the right to data to be deleted. Subsequentially, one of the thoughts in the study was that

also in 2010 the enlightened and democratic society will have its specific fears, but those fears will have little to do with computers. Topics such as ‘fear of surveillance’, ‘jobkiller’, ‘data privacy’, and others will not be related to computers anymore

Borchert writes that this optimism “frontally collides with reality in 2010” and points to a blogpost by Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti in which she calls the years 2000-2010 the “lost, catastrophic decade of data privacy”

Where are we heading?

Written by Claus

January 9th, 2010 at 6:52 pm

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