In this energy crisis the digital transformation was killed | Technology | The USA Print

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Image of a fully operational refinery.
Image of a fully operational refinery.UNSPLASH

If you live long enough to see how the tactel tracksuit becomes fashionable again, how the price of those apartments that could only go up falls down the mountain and how a systemic energy crisis takes away the development of countries and the happiness of your family, is that you are a xennial (born between generation X and millennials) like me. Not only will you have studied the EGB, but you will have grown with the water saving campaign “You can, but Spain cannot” in the face of the persistent drought and with the OPEC crisis piggyback. You will be programmed in an eternal loop of turning off taps and turning off lights and going from summer to winter hours with the naturalness of someone who has been educated that resources are scarce and must be managed wisely. Since you have lived long enough, you will have become dependent on all the services that digitization provides you and you will be indifferent to the fact that you pay for them with your privacy. Total, leaving you some rights along the way is not so important either. What you did not expect is that, at this point, you would have to do without them because the energy does not come for so much digitization.

Bernardo de Miguel and Manuel V. Gómez warned us in this same newspaper that Europe is preparing for a scenario of energy rationing. The war in Ukraine has ruined the community’s energy policy, which, as we know, is highly dependent on Russian gas. The outlook is not favourable. Even if, like good ants, we stocked up on gas for the winter, it would only cover a quarter of the demand. In the best scenario, we would have to cut our energy consumption by 30% if we do not want to live in a permanent blackout.

The entire digital transformation is based on at least two pillars on the consumer side: Internet access with a fixed price or flat rate and infinite energy at a reasonable price. However, it seems that, in the midst of the feast of abundance, no one has realized that we do not have a constant, infinite and cheap or reasonably priced supply of energy. This scenario of energy limitation catches us in the midst of the greater digital individualization of processes due to the social distancing imposed by the pandemic. With the excuse of contagion, many simple analog processes mutated into electronic ones. Before we didn’t have to pay to consult a restaurant’s menu, but now we pay half for its digital menus when we are forced to consult them through our devices.

It is one more case, but not the only one, of this banal digitization of processes that are more efficient and cheaper in analog environments that could make sense with cheap and available energy, but that are more expensive than the analog process they replace.

As for processes and products that are digital by design, such as crypto assets, they are already coming under scrutiny, albeit from an environmental perspective for the time being. We have recently experienced the debate in the European Parliament about him MiCA Regulation (Markets in Crypto-assetscryptocurrency markets in Spanish) that seemed to want to limit cryptocurrencies based on proof of work (powproof of work), such as Bitcoin or Etherdue to its high energy consumption. The controversy arose from an amendment that required environmental sustainability standards from crypto assets that all are far from meeting. The amendment was defeated, but received considerable support with 32 votes against and 24 in favour. Precisely as a result of this debate and to reduce the high carbon footprint generated by cryptocurrencies, in particular as regards the mechanisms used to validate transactions, MEPs asked the Commission to submit a legislative proposal that includes, before 2025, to the mining of crypto assets in the EU taxonomywhich qualifies an activity as environmentally sustainable.

The European Parliament takes advantage of the MiCA debate to underline that crypto-asset mining is not the only industry that consumes huge energy resources that are not climate-friendly, and asks the Commission to work on legislation that addresses these issues in the different sectors. The video game and entertainment industries or data processing centers would also be in that situation.

Although there is no complete equivalence between the eco-sustainable energy production and energy supply issues, this discussion points to the essential problem: digital transformation needs clean energy, but first it needs energy to function. Now that rationing is on the table, any design of any digital product has to answer the questions of whether it is necessary or if it is just another Silicon Valley occurrence and if it is energetically sustainable and more efficient from this perspective than an offline process. . Assuming it is highly efficient or has obvious advantages over a physical process, can we design it to save energy? And, most importantly, do you have a physical backup in case there is no power or extended outages?

Four years ago I warned of how critical energy is for the connected world we have built, until I put myself in the catastrophic scenario of prolonged power outages that would lead to no access to practically any service, many of them critical, to which we are used to it. If we decide to use e-money and fix the obvious privacy issues first, that money would have to be available for offline exchange. And even then you would need power to access it from a cold device or from the wallet (wallet) of a mobile. Which brings us to the fact that digitalization needs support, and, now more than ever, support in a scenario of expensive and limited energy.

Not everything will be bad news. This vision of digitization based on security and energy savings could have an interesting derivative: if we save by disconnecting or reducing the extractive routine processes that have no value for the process itself, what are the great data titans going to do? base their model on us being permanently on and connected and that they have grown up in a world of abundance? Perhaps the lack of electricity gives us the joy of the return of privacy.

Paloma Llaneza Gonzalez She is a lawyer, essayist and ikebanaka. She has a degree in Law from the Complutense University and a Diploma in Higher European Studies from the College of Europe in Bruges. She has been practicing as a lawyer, auditor and drafter of standards in Spain, Europe and the USA. She is the author of ‘Datanomics’ (Planeta-Deusto) and the novel ‘Appetite for Risk’ (Books.com)

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