Deep green internet of biases? and other terrible ways to open a conversation :)

There are two themes/conversations I would like to explore in the context of internet of humans. But I am unsure how to frame the topics. Any input and offers of help would be much appreciated…

  1. What a deep green movement for the Internet of Humans would look like and which questions we should be asking to start figuring this out together. For example- how would you/not approach the work of developing a deep green trustmark for digital tech? What would you not try/avoid doing? Who or what would you bring into that conversation?How would you mobilize people in tech to contribute or adopt using it?

  2. An internet without bias? I came across this conference on bias in Neuroscience and AI https://www.ru.nl/bias2019/program-location/. The topic is important but i wouldn’t know how to approach it without normative thinking - how would you invite people to discuss this?

Any ideas or additional topics you would like to explore?

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Let’s start by trying to define “deep green”. Do you mean “deep” it as it is referred to in relation to “deep tech”?

@BlackForestBoi, how could Memex and Storex be useful for those wanting to work together for more sustainable tech?

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The work that the Green Web Foundation has been doing seems highly relevant, Chris Adams is the person I’d recommend chatting to, he’s been doing work with them. That covers the energy angle of digital services.

Then there’s of course the materials angle for those products that have a hardware component (everything IoT for example).

The Restart Project are doing amazing work around prolonging the life cycle of electronics through repair.

So maybe one aspect is along the spectrum of “how does this come into the world”, “how is this in the world”, “how does this end its life” kinda thing.

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Oh! Yes ofcourse hey @janetgunter :slight_smile: maybe you have some relections on ^^?

Got suggests for how not to approach thinking about trustmarks on general/ a starting set of questions we could depart from based on your experience with the trustable iot one you are developing?

Ah right, yes. Thanks for the reminder. I sometimes take that so for granted because I’m in too deep to notice that not everybody spends their days pondering these questions :slight_smile:

Some of the foundational questions to ask yourself is:

  • Should this mark provide a base-line, or be more aspirational? (One establishes a minimum standard, the other a “gold” standard, which means one applies to potentially everything while the other applies to a small subset.)
  • Do we build this around information provided by the vendor/manufacturer or do we verify information independently? (One is easy but could be abused, the other is more robust but more costly.)

My research on this might be outdated, but to the best of my knowledge, there isn’t currently a canonical “green” trustmark for things like electronics. It seems like Fairphone’s approach of making their phones’ components transparent is about the limit of what has been possible. Why? The sourcing is incredibly complex.

Once you get to your definition of green/sustainability (Focus on materials? Sourcing processes? Repairability/recyclability? Shipping and packaging? Energy use? Something else entirely?) you’d likely need to start breaking down the product into its components, and possibly these components into their own more basic components. The way supply chains work, a product (let’s take a smart home assistant as an example) might have software from a company that we would recognize, and some parts or most parts of the industrial design might come from the same company if it’s a higher-end consumer brand. Maybe the case and some chips and boards could be traced back, or reported on by the company (if they agree to share, because of IP rights). Once you’re down to the chip level, most likely those were sourced as is in Shenzhen, and at the latest that stage is where documentation is likely to become a lot less complete (currently; that might change if there’s a business case for better documentation!).

So! I believe there are some data bases for finding out environmental impact both on the materials side (Dr. Isabel Ordonez mentioned something along those lines at a recent ThingsCon Salon) as well as on the energy side of digital products (The Green Web Foundation and Chris Adams to the rescue!).

Beyond that, I think this breaks reasonably new ground to really justify some deep research: How can we mitigate the lack of transparency and still get to meaningful insights into how green a product is? What are best practices to make things more green? What are strategies to allow for this type of mark to evolve as things get more transparent over time?

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I agree about defining ‘deep’ - and given the situation we collectively find ourselves in, I think that definition should be as inclusive as @pbihr suggests: materials, sources, processes, recyclability, shipping, packaging, energy use - all of the above and whatever else goes along with it.

In some ways this reminds me of the late 60s and early 70s, back when we the people were discovering just how extensive pollution was. Fires in rivers, Love Canal, dying lakes, acid rain, PCBs, DDT…etc etc. There was a period of deep collective investigation into what we had done to ourselves. We need that now in every walk of life.

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Thanks for tagging us. We are probably lacking the wider context of this thread — apologies if this misses the mark :wink:

There are a number of initiatives towards “repairability scores” for electronics, some EU, some scoping at a national level (including hints from Defra here in the UK) and some private sector-driven voluntary approaches. Additionally TCO are looking to expand their criteria to include a full lifecycle approach.

Worth also remembering that EU-driven voluntary initiatives like Ecolabel that have had extremely limited traction. For example, the Ecolabel for laptops has existed for years, but very few (if any?) manufacturers have ever risen to the challenge.

In terms of reducing environmental harms in the supply chain, we would recommend getting involved in Good Electronics network, which has long-term experience networking grassroots activists on the ground. Electronics Watch has done a great job of extending these concerns into actionable, public sector procurement.

However, worth throwing in here that while there are areas where labour in the supply chain activism overlap with green supply chain activism (such as occupational hazards and pollution in production), the agenda of slowing consumption of electronics, and even promoting repair and reuse in primary markets, are seen to be somewhat challenging to labour activists. So sensitivity is required as there is still a perceived “zero sum” of jobs in this respect.

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Second the recommendation to cooperate with the Good Electronics Network. We have been a member for years, useful exchange, focus on sharing campaign info and policy processes, less so on co-developing local formats / strategies; occupational health / right to know has been a key issue from the start, as has supply chain transparency (here a 2018 survey of tools). Lacks tangible alternatives to feature / rally around given the limited commercial reach of fairphone et al, short product cycles (went to annual in almost all areas of mobile tech a while back) plus rebound effects (see “backfire”) have made this an uphill battle. Limited links to free software networks, something I never quite understood - the convergence of open data / hardware / software is sth Edgeryders could push for to promote a holistic concept of openness.

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Hey folks.

What a deep green movement for the Internet of Humans would look like and which questions we should be asking to start figuring this out together.

For example - how would you/not approach the work of developing a deep green trustmark for digital tech?

I think I’d ask what the scope of the problem you’re trying to explore is - I’ll speak about IoT here, as I think web’s a slightly different story, and this is already a pretty long response.

In my experience, that once you pull at one aspect of this what you might refer to as deep green* , it’s hard not to end up in a situation where you basically end up at a conclusion like Michelle Thorne’s post, it’s capitalism, stupid.

At that point, it’s harder to make specific recommendations without us needing huge sweeping political changes.

* I assume would be some kind of more systemic way of talking about sustainability, beyond plastic straws and the like

My experiences with IoTMArk

I’ll try sharing my experiences when trying to get some understanding of climate change and environmental sustainability into the open IoTMark, which became the BetterIoT work that Alex Deschamps-Sonsino has sunk a colossal amount of work into).

I got involved back in 2012, when I was working at AMEE (an environmental data startup - Avoid Mass Extinction Engine), and I wanted to understand some of the issues around hardware. I wrote up my experiences here about the first event , and the follow up event here in 2017.

If you’re short on time though, the TLDR version is that we had a really hard time seeing how building IoT products in a environmentally responsible way, could be commercially viable in the current context because we are so used to shifting many of the costs of related to a service/product outside an organisation,

I mean - we didn’t even have a good way to capture all the bad in a single diagram or artefact, to really help us talk about which harms we wanted to mitigate first, let alone agree a some methods that smaller companies might be able to adopt, and survive. We figured it needed to be something accessible to them to be able for us to realistically propose it in the trust mark then.

Finding some stuff via Isabel’s work - MET Matrixes,and EcoCosts

Back then, I wasn’t really aware of any accessible framework to talk about the different kinds of costs incurred on humans or the environment, but through reading some of Isabel Ordonez’s work, I’ve since came across some tools like MET (material, energy toxicity) Matrixes - see the grid in that deck, that at least let you start enumerating some of these costs for industrially designed products, and give some data to inform tradeoffs you might make, and EcoCost, with some nice apps and openly licenced data you can work with.

That said, these frameworks tend to be aimed at mass producted tools or services - where you typically couldn’t change much about how you deliver a service to people after you’ve decided to ship something. Typically you’d wait to ship the next edition of the thing - before you can make changes.

This is different to the more webby, “continuous delivery” way we talk about services, which seem largely informed by how large public sector organisations might do so, rather than orgs which need to move around substantial quantities of stuff from factories, to retailers, to customers, to an end of life destination (_maybe a new factory. but more likely landfill).

What would you not try/avoid doing?

This feels a bit depressing, but I’d try asking why we still only keep referring to Fairphone as one of the only small company success stories in electronics - after 6 or 7 years. We desparately need more examples like them, but I struggle to see many.

How would you mobilise people in tech to contribute or adopt using it?

I think there are lessons to be learned from the work by Emily Webber and Doteveryone with consequence scanning - they’ve put work into designing events that fit into the way digital products are increasingly made, and I think it’s one of the more promising ideas I’ve seen of late.

That and reminding people in tech that no one else is coming, and if we want to feel better about ourselves, we need to be prepared to act ourselves, and that we have more agency than we might think. The People, Power and Technology reports from Doteveryone are particularly good for this, and they point to an appetite among workers for frameworks or things they can use at work to address the dissonance of working in tech, when so many things are clearly on fire, environmentally.

There’s also some nice stuff coming from the W3C themselves on the web front, with the Ethical Web Principles, that’s both recent, and quite accessible.

I know this is a bit of a brain dump - sorry it’s not more structured, but I’m happy to chat more about web and energy on Saturday, which I think is a slightly better situation now.

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thank you @mrchrisadams and @janetgunter for this - plenty projects, people and entry points to explore. I’m digging into it - looking forward to meeting up tomorrow :slight_smile:

I’ve been looking around at my end and came across @cassie’s mapping of some people doing different things in what is called “responsible tech” - I think it is an interesting approach and could be something we could build on to make sense of this: Background and call for input: https://medium.com/doteveryone/whos-doing-what-in-the-field-of-responsible-technology-f94dc5bf63a2
The actual map they produced: https://kumu.io/doteveryone/responsible-tech#org-network

Another thing I came across is research on “Impact Tech - the intentional use of science and technology to benefit people and the planet” by @btincq and crew - executive summary: GoodTechLab-The-Frontiers-of-Impact-Tech-2019-06-Summary.pdf (4.4 MB)

If anyone wants to dig into it, we could compare notes :slight_smile: ping @ilaria maybe of interest to you too

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Wow, @mrchrisadams, this is really great work, thanks. I was not aware of the W3C’s Ethical Web Principles, and it’s a great discovery!

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Dunno if you have already seen this beautiful angy-guy rant about reparing broken tech products. In case you haven’t: https://cheezburger.com/4550661/this-anti-apple-rant-from-a-repair-guy-reminds-us-not-all-heroes-wear-capes

Good for him. My Mac laptop has one of those batteries that’s glued to the keyboard so if you need a new battery you have to throw out the whole keyboard.