The computer and the environment

As has been shown lately, the environment is becoming an increasingly important issue for people, so urgently that they are willing to sacrifice even part of their freedoms, their comfort and their habits to save the planet. Although there are voices that activism is too ambitious on this topic, the fact remains that taxes and prices are rising, from which investments and subsidies for the protection of air, water, forests and hillsides are paid, and that this does not cause much resistance.

Contributions to ecology are included in the prices of energy, in the prices of electrical appliances, we pay in advance for the ecological disposal of batteries, plastics and other potential pollutants, and we understand it. There is some debate here about whether the carbon footprint, the amount of CO2 in the air, the warming of the planet and other alleged threats are really so urgently dangerous, but the process of greening is successfully moving forward. It is especially strong in developed countries, where it is somehow assumed that there are enough resources and the well-being achieved here is actually at the expense of nature. At the same time, this is a relatively small part of the planet – in terms of area and population – but the ambition here is so strong that it overshadows one very practical argument: the recovery of the environment in this part of the world can be eliminated by its rapid deterioration in other parts of the planet. On the one hand, there is a call for a reasonable – i.e. moderate – approach to ecology, and on the other hand, a call for help to weaker economies, i.e. a kind of “export” of ecological thinking with appropriate financial support to less developed and therefore less ecological countries.

Let’s add a completely different topic to this dilemma: in addition to the real world, a virtual world has taken up residence in our minds, in which we spend more and more time and which consumes more and more of humanity’s intellectual potential. New communication channels are emerging, where you can experience other forms of your life under different identities – you can act here as a generation younger or older, with different opinions and political orientations, you can even change your gender, nationality and appearance here. And you don’t just have to communicate, you can watch movies and series, the lives and opinions of celebrities, you can get fortune-telling, you can educate yourself and you can spend a lot of money – even money that you earn or borrow here. It is true that sometimes it is a bit difficult to return from these joyful virtual worlds to the only real one, but more and more people cross this border between the real and virtual worlds every day and do not think much about it. They react in the virtual world in order to better manage the real world. Billions of people all over the planet.

So far, no one has thought about the fact that even the virtual world has its own ecology, its own environment, which can be dangerous and perhaps even destructive for humans. With the advent of artificial intelligence, the question of the ecology of virtual worlds becomes even more urgent. Today, a number of platforms and applications are available that will write you a letter, an essay or a short story on a given topic, paint a picture, solve a problem or do homework. Czech, English, German, whatever. The teachers will find out, but it is difficult to prove, because the applications are able to prepare an essay or draw a sketch in many variants on the given topic. Some go about it by having the same applications work out their assignments as well – the point of such pink-pongs is probably minimal, but the applications benefit from it, because they learn more and more from each assignment.

Virtual worlds are created in our heads when we open our profiles on social networks, when we swallow information from websites and blogs, when we engage in Internet games and the like. Let’s try to think about it “ecologically”: What we observe in nature, processes that take decades, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of years, can also be observed in the virtual world of the Internet, where, of course, things change within months, years at the most. How long has it been since the virtual world was only accessible from a computer and a landline? Today, it is available anywhere via a mobile phone, smart watch and various appliances in a “smart” home. The Internet has its main highways and winding and dead ends, it has its underworld and gray zone, and it spreads both quality and verified information, as well as the opium of populism, disgusting political propaganda, misinformation and disgust. Essential and rare art and unbridled kitsch thrive here; cinematography and porn; high-quality and fast services are provided here, but there is also robbery and theft, theft and mystification.

What with this? There is a lot of talk about internet regulation, strict bans and restrictions. This can be promising, but also quite counterproductive – it is technically possible to circumvent virtually any regulation today, and what is prohibited usually flourishes all the more strongly. Perhaps it is an opportunity for the so-called humanitarian sciences, perhaps for philosophers, sociologists, political scientists, theologians, but ultimately perhaps also for historians, to find a way to maintain the environment in the virtual world at a level acceptable for life. If in nature we are afraid of our skin and lungs, blood cells, kidneys, liver, blood vessels and bones, on the Internet the brain is at risk – the center of our abilities, our will and our feelings. Quite an essential part of our health.

Photo: Pixabay

Author: Martin Švehla

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