For the last couple weeks, I have been investigating how the design of mobile electronic devices has changed over the last decade and how those changes are harming the environment. The whole electronics industry is now copying Apple’s designs, which means that planned obsolescence has become the norm in the industry. For example, 53% of the 2016 smartphones models listed on the gsmarena.com web site do not have replaceable batteries, so they are designed to be thrown away after approximately 2 years of use, when the batteries loose their capacity to hold a charge.
The average smartphone weighs roughly 150 grams and its fabrication emits roughly 100 kgs of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e). Therefore, we can guesstimate that the fabrication of the 1.52 billion smartphones that IDC predicts will be produced in the year 2016 will emit roughly 150 megatons of CO2-e and they will become 225,000 tonnes of toxic e-waste when they are thrown away.
In order to do a better calculation, I need numbers about how the design of mobile devices has changed over time. To that end, I wrote a PHP script to download all the specs from laptopmag.com about every laptop and tablet model produced since 2006. After spending 6 hours perfecting my script, I set it to start downloading overnight. (Internet in Bolivia is extremely slow during the day.) This morning when I checked the status of my script, I discovered that the server at laptopmag.com had detected my little game and is now blocking all my requests, returning 403 (forbidden) status codes. I wonder if my script to download all the cell phone models from gsmarena.com will hit the same roadblock.
I miss the good old days on the internet when nobody worried about DoS attacks and the internet was a free and open place. Today, the internet is such a paranoid place. Every server is configured to assume that you are a bad actor. Today, if a ping doesn’t work, you don’t know if it is because the server is down or because the ping service has simply been turned off to eliminate another attack vector. After my VPS was hacked several years ago, I became paranoid as well. I now turn off every port and service on my VPS running the illa-a.org web site which is not absolutely necessary.
The internet in general is becoming a darker place in my opinion. More and more of it is cut off in places like Facebook, where the formats are proprietary and the sites are designed to suck up our personal information to monetize it. The dream of the internet becoming an information superhighway that enlightens the world has been perverted into the nightmare of misinformation silos and a massive surveillance operation. I used to believe that converting to free and open source software would liberate humanity, but now that the whole planet is using open source Android and accessing web sites running on Linux, I see that running software with a free license means little if it is employed as means to collect and exploit our personal information and colonize our minds.