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Computer power and information loss

The exponential growth in computing power, information storage, and electronic communication via phone and Internet has created a transformation over the last 25 years that was previously unimaginable. We are so enthralled by the new toy that it has dominated our lives and we have put total faith in it. Our enthusiasm is frequently well founded, as it has opened rapid communication across the world, faster calculations, and better weather prediction.

Despite the good features, negative aspects also soon became apparent. For example, it has revolutionized the way in which we shop, but in so doing it has reduced the support for local community shops and local employment. More hidden from us when we make Internet purchases is whether the taxation on the profits from our purchases is still arriving to help our own government or indeed any government (or is the seller based in an offshore tax system?). Isolation of sellers and companies from the community isolates them both physically and mentally, and they then lack the associated interest and support in the nation to which they are selling. They are definitely not encouraging local industries. Instead, it is driving globalization of products with consequent rises in bulk transport, even of goods as simple as garden produce when it is locally out of season. These factors all have negative features, since they cost fuel and power and in turn are depleting natural resources and contributing to global warming and shortages of water in many countries. Not least is that the pattern increases unemployment in many types of job in the more expensive countries, such as the UK or the USA.

Less apparent at this stage is whether, with greater computing power, it will become feasible to have far better robotics in manufacture. Robotic technology will raise profits for the manufacturers, but match this with ever more human unemployment. The argument that there will be more leisure time is false; in reality it often means unemployment, and it completely ignores the satisfaction of personally working and achieving something. For myself, I see reduced prices that raise unemployment as an unacceptable trade.

We have been totally overcome and obsessed with the advantages of high-speed electronics and communication, but, assuming we hope to survive the next 25 years, then we need to rapidly understand the side effects and long-term consequences.

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