Computing, climate change, and all our relationships

On May 21st 2018, I gave my first ever large conference talk: “Computing, climate change, and all our relationships” at Deconstructconf in Seattle. Although it ended up being both delivered in person and published online earlier, it is actually based on my prior research and work on my essay “Ecological Prospects for Computing”. Here is the abstract of the talk, which is about 40 minutes long despite my attempts to keep it to 25 or 30:

Inequality in the distribution of computing resources, and the often oppressive character of computers, are embedded in a larger social context. A principal feature of capitalism today is climate change, a racist crisis with hugely disparate impacts on people with the least responsibility for the unfolding disaster.

As Global North technologists, we have deeply negative relationships with the workers and nations at the base of the supply chains we build atop. How can we imagine and build futures for computing that take account of our entanglements with exploitation of the earth and of oppressed peoples – everywhere, but particularly in the Global South – and use our medium to help repair all of our relationships?

It is a political talk that attempts to keep my socialist, anti-imperialist and police/prison abolitionist views on the interrelationships between computing, climate change, and capitalism grounded in the ordinary human relationships we all engage in every day – whether with folks we know personally or people we’ve never met, yet are still connected to. Without further ado, here is the video itself.

At some point, I’d like to re-post here the transcript (which you can also read at the same link as the video) with additional references and corrections of errors that I made. Sometimes I misspoke due to my nerves, while in other cases I’ve subsequently learned something relevant that I was ignorant of at the time. We’ll see if I ever get around to that. Despite my self-critical tendencies, which are a large part of how I get better at things, I’m not shy to say that overall I’m fairly satisfied with this work of mine. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve slowly built my confidence that there’s no need for me to wait for years for someone else to do what I think needs doing; I can just do my best, take others’ feedback, and keep learning. In retrospect, it’s quite odd that I was a conference organizer for three years before I ever spoke at a conference.

I gave the presentation without notes, but I hope my slides – particularly the list of references at the end – may be of use to some people. I created these slides using Apple’s Keynote software, and used its built-in export feature to save them as HTML to post them on the web. I’ll refrain from detailing things I dislike about the generated output, and just say I apologize in advance for any inaccessibility that I suspect this process may have caused. Please contact me if you have any issue accessing any information contained within the presentation, and I will see what I can do to help address the issue.