In a recent blog, I discussed digital technology’s contribution to the environmental apocalypse, with massive amounts of energy being used in three ways: (1) to manufacture digital technologies; (2) to operate them; and (3) to dispose of and replace them with newer versions.
Electronic waste (e-waste) occurs when repair of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is impossible or undesirable and where devices are discarded thoughtlessly. A 2020 estimate of the amount of e-waste produced in the world was 54 million metric tons, which amounts to 7.3 kg fo every person in the world. Who would have predicted that the figure would be so high? The amount is doubling every 16 years. Asia generates the greatest quantity, followed by the Americas and Europe, which also produces the most per person.
Contact tracing is a process for identifying, informing, and monitoring people who might have come into contact with a person who has been diagnosed with an infectious disease such as COVID-19. It starts with a positive test. Public health officials then need to know who that person might have inadvertently infected. This requires tracking down anyone that person had contacted (was “close enough” for “long enough”) recently (14 days in the case of COVID). They can then be informed that they might have been infected and take measures to quarantine and monitor for symptoms. For example, restaurants initiate tracing by recording the name and phone number of one person in each party taking a table in the restaurant.
Contributed by Ron Baecker, an Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, co-author of The COVID-19 Solutions Guide and author of Computers and Society: Modern Perspectives (OUP, 2019).
My family is widely separated. I live in Canada. My brother-in-law, niece, nephew, and their families are in New Jersey and Pennsylvania; my cousins, their children, and their families are in Argentina, Spain, England, and on both coasts of the USA. Typically, I visit my niece and nephew once or twice a year; I manage a trip to Buenos Aires or Bilbao, Spain, about every 3 years. But not recently. I therefore Facetime with either my nephew or my niece almost every week. We also are about to have our fourth global family Zoom. This started out to celebrate individual birthdays, with great spirit and feeling of bringing the family closer together. The next event will celebrate 3 birthdays — ages 78, 41, and 9 — and a recent birth in the family in London. The 9-year-old birthday event will see us participating in a day-long scavenger hunt. What fun!
Approximately two months ago, I had brunch with a friend and colleague — Fred, not his real name — who I had known for over 40 years. I had not seen him in six months. Over the space of an hour, he received at least six calls on his cell phone from family members. Based on what I could hear of his responses, no interruption dealt with an urgent matter.
Several times a year, I have dinner with dear friends of over 30 years, a vigorous professional couple in their 70s with accomplishments in the arts, the sciences, and public service. Ann — also not her real name — is constantly using her phone to google for facts that will contribute to the conversation. Her fact-checking is typically interesting, but is there a cost?