Web 3.0: The Innovative Solution To Combat Monopoly of Tech Giants
As the crips line between our physical and digital world is blurring, a world dominated by Spatial Web is on its way. The convergence of enabling the large tech giants like Google and Facebook to direct our lives into uncertainty is giving rise to a new era of the internet. Web 3.0.
If examined closely, the internet is actually like a net made up of millions of computers, smartphones, and many other technology devices, software, and programs. Though snipping a few threads off this global net does not make a huge collapse simply because there are thousands of different ways of building connections.
Though sometimes, governments can cut off the internet service in some regions, when seen through the global lense, crashing or switching off the global internet at the same time is next to impossible. But a glimpse of how closely one can get to accomplish this practically impossible scenario was witnessed by the world in the recent server down of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram.
Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp Crash
Yes, Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp are not the entire internet. They are just social media platforms. But, in the majority of developing African countries, a large population uses the Free Basics of Facebook. So, for these millions of people, the server down of Facebook could imply that the entire internet is down.
Furthermore, there are thousands of businesses today that run their massive section of the business via Facebook. Many people use Facebook IDs and passwords as login credentials to log into other services or applications. Therefore, the server down for 6 hours had some devastating consequences.
All this loss is a direct implication of the centralized structure of the entire internet, with only a few companies controlling the internet as a whole. But, during its inception, the sole purpose of the internet was decentralization, completely opposite of what it has become today.
The Inception of Internter: Decentralization
During World War II, the US invented the internet to get an edge by decentralizing the communication system. JCR Licklider, 1962 of Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), proposed the concept of a galactic network between all the computers. Based on this innovative idea, ARPA Net that would later grow to become the mighty internet was invented in 1969 that connected the existing computers of that time.
Despite the interconnection of the computers, the different programming languages of each system made the interaction between the computers incompatible. Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn put forth the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), an inter-networking solution, which resolved the language barrier. ARPA Net adopted the TCP/IP protocol in 1983.
Internet: The Failed Purpose
Another milestone of the internet for the general population was the invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990. By openly publishing this software for the world, enabling people to follow threads of knowledge easily. This selfless act provided us with the mighty internet.
But, today, Tim Berners-Lee’s efforts to decentralize the internet are going down the barrel. He says, “we demonstrated the web had failed instead of humanity, as it was supposed to have done and failed in many places.” The free access to the web by everyone is fading as a few select companies have established a monopoly over the entire internet, resulting in the robust centralization of this miraculous technology.
Web 3.0: The Future of Internet
To counter the monopoly of large internet giants like Facebook and Google, many experts, including Tim, look up at Web 3.0, The Future of the Internet. Web 3.0 aims to decentralize the internet, an internet that is not controlled, monitored and relies on a single company.
Many new innovative proposals have been put forth by numerous initiators. For example, Mastodon, a decentralized version of Twitter, was developed by a German coder. Furthermore, technologies like Blockchain also focus on the decentralization in the global financial system.
Even Tim Bernie-Lee himself is working on his own decentralized platform named Solid. It is a platform that provides authority to individuals to control their data instead of handing over their data to giant companies. In a nutshell, Soldi is an initiative that teaches the user to keep their data on the internet without relying on other companies.
Any social application or website build upon Solid will save the user data on a user’s pod rather than transferring and keeping all the data in these social applications’ servers.
Web 3.0: The Transforming Future
The upcoming innovative technologies are trying to build the internet and web in a decentralized structure, pushing the monopoly of dominating companies down the drain. This is Web 3.0, where the world will once again witness the rise of decentralized applications and decentralized web.
Peter Diamandis, a Greek-American physician, engineer, and entrepreneur, says, “the world around us is about to light up with layer upon layer of rich, fun, meaningful, engaging, and dynamic data. Data you can see and interact with. This magical future ahead is called the Spatial Web and will transform every aspect of our lives, from retail and advertising, to work and education, to entertainment and social interaction.”
Air Conditioners Exacerbate Climate Injustice
Air conditioners are the epitome of inequality and climate injustice.
Buying air conditioners is one of the most popular individual responses to climate change. As the temperature of the globe increases, most people are buying and using air conditioners to protect themselves from the scorching heat. As of 2020, there were 1.9 billion air conditioning units in the world. By 2050, the number of air conditioners is expected to grow to 4.5 billion. That means every 2 people out of 7 are using air conditioning. Further, 37% of all the world’s electricity is used for air conditioning.
At an individual level, air conditioning seem good to protect oneself from the sweltering heat. However, the use of air conditioners possesses two inherent problems- (i) They only worsen climate change and (ii) the access to air conditioning is inequitable.
How do Air Conditioners Contribute to Global Warming?
Air conditioning is a trap- the warmer it gets, the more air conditioners we use. The more we use air conditioners, the warmer it gets. It is an irony that the technology we need to stay cooler only makes the climate hotter.
Air conditioners use refrigerants that also happen to be powerful heat-trapping gases. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the chemicals used in air conditioners are 12,000 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
According to the calculations of the World Economic Forum, greenhouse gas emissions from air conditioning will account for as much as a 0.5-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by the end of the century.
Also Read: Pakistan’s Climate Crisis: A Peek Into The Apocalyptic Future That Awaits
Unequal Access to Air Conditioners
As of now, people have mostly focused on the technological aspect of air conditioners. Various countries have started funding initiatives to upgrade air conditioners. They aim to replace HFCs with harmless chemicals.
The problem of unequal access to air conditioners is mostly disregarded.
It is perhaps because almost all elites possess an air conditioner. Further, lower-class people who cannot afford an air conditioner right now desire one. In this race for buying air conditioners, no one is asking the right questions.
Given that air conditioners contribute towards global warming through the release of HFCs and consumption of huge energy, why should only some people be allowed to have air conditioners?
The harmful effects of air conditioning on climate are socialized. However, the benefits are not socialized.
Also Read: Climate Refugees: Pain of Unseen Victims
We are not in this Together
When it comes to climate change, it is often repeated that we are all in this together. However, nothing is farther from the truth. The rich people who afford air conditioning make life terrible for others who cannot afford an air conditioning. Further, they totally insulate themselves from the harm of the air conditioners.
The case of air conditioning makes any kind of technological progress to protect humankind from climate change look bleak. If there is technological progress, it appears that it may be private. Like air conditioning, technology may not be a public good.
When Jeff Bezos returned from space last year, he made it very clear that elites will not reduce their carbon footprint. He instead suggested moving the heavy industry into space. He said, “We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space. And keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is. That’s going to take decades to achieve, but you have to start. And big things start with small steps.”
Bezos is the owner of one of the most polluting companies in the world. Instead of switching to green energy, he is talking about taking polluting industries to space.
It may, in fact, be possible for Bezos to start his life in space permanently. He may be able to give his future generations a better climate up in space. Unfortunately, he will take this step only after he has done damage maximum to the earth, to an extent that life may not be possible here.
That is exactly what air conditioning is- make life terrible for others but also make technological progress to insulate yourself from the harmful effects inflicted on others.
Also Read: Climate Change Deepening Gender Inequalities: A Reality Check
The Way Forward
Before taking any step towards mitigating climate change or making any technological progress to protect humankind from the effects of climate change, it must be kept in mind that climate change affects different classes of society differently.
Any future technology that is not public good should be rejected by the people. Although air conditioners are now beyond the stage where they could be regulated but governments must ensure that air conditioners are taxed heavily. The revenue thus generated can be channeled for green energy initiatives.
Are NFTs Killing our Planet? The Darkside of NFT Explained
NFTs have exploded in popularity since the beginning of 2020. With the astounding rise in sales by 1,700% between December 2020 and February 2021, the newest tech sensations have led many artists to earn millions over the auction of a single picture.
However, there is a dark side to these digital assets. NFTs may be the future of digital art – but they are putting our planet’s future in grave danger.
So, what are NFTs? Are they bad for the environment? What makes them so dangerous for the planet? And, is there a future for green NFTs?
What are NFTs?
NFTs are being heralded as the next big thing in the high-growth crypto investing world. These tokens, which are seen as the digital equivalent of collectibles, have already attracted millions of dollars in investments in a range of NFTs and NFT-related enterprises.
But, what exactly is NFT?
The idea of cryptocurrency is that each unit of the currency is interchangeable. They are all identical and worth the same amount; therefore, they are known as a fungible tokens. NFTs, on the other hand, are Non-Fungible Tokens.
An NFT is an information stored on a ledger maintained by a distributed network. However, each NFT is different from one another; therefore, not interchangeable.
NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are gaining traction in the digital world, and they may take the shape of artwork, music, metaverse real estate, and even selfies. They provide new ways for artists to profit from their work, as well as a means for purchasers to support creators while also gaining the bragging rights of having exclusive content. However, they have faced criticism for their environmental impact.
But, what makes NFTs bad for the environment?
Are NFTs Bad News For The Environment?
Yes, NFTs have a devastating impact on the planet. And one of the primary perpetrators behind NFT’s environmental impact is mining. Mining is a procedure that uses enormous processing power and energy to solve complicated mathematical problems to ‘mint’ an NFT on the blockchain and hand over the ownership to the buyer.
Ethereum, an open-source blockchain, is the most popular marketplace for NFTs. To construct these digital assets, Ethereum employs a purposeful inefficient ‘Proof of work‘ (PoW) approach.
Powerful computers can try an infinite number of new block creations each second. And the first miner to find the solution is rewarded with their unique assets, which are then added to the blockchain.
However, the puzzle becomes even more complex as more money fuels the NFT industry and more computers join the race to solve the problems. To stay competitive, miners constantly need to upgrade to higher computing power, large warehouses, and more powerful cooling systems. Thus boosting the carbon footprint.
Take, for example, ‘Space Cat,‘ a GIF NFT of a cat traveling to the moon in a rocket. According to Crypto Art, the Space Cat’s carbon footprint is the same as an EU resident’s electrical usage for two months.
Finding the Worst Offender of Carbon Footprint
Given a sequence of steps involved and little to no research in determining the emission during each stage; finding out the actual carbon footprint of each NFT is challenging.
However, we know that Ethereum is one of the most carbon-intensive NFT platforms. Thus any digital asset purchased through it would have a significant carbon footprint.
Unfortunately, most NFTs today are stored in the Ethereum blockchain that operates on a proof-of-work (PoW) model. Digital Artist Akten examined the carbon emission of 18,000 NFTs and discovered that an average digital asset uses energy equivalent to a month’s worth of power consumed by an EU resident.
The PoW system of Ethereum consumes over 31 terawatt-hours (TWh) of power every year, an approximate equivalent to the annual energy usage of Nigeria.
“Since NFTs are getting mainstream, more people are transacting on Ethereum. As long as proof-of-work still exists in that chain, the environmental impact is still high,”Angeline Viray, a trader and investor in NFTs and cryptocurrencies
Is Proof of Stake (PoS) Model the Way to Green NFTs?
Thre are two widely used blockchain consensus for cryptocurrency and NFT that ensures the legitimacy of the transaction on the network:
- Proof of Work (PoW)
- Proof of Stake (PoS)
While most networks today operate on a power-intensive PoW model where miners are rewarded for solving a combination of ‘digital locks,’ PoS might be the future of green NFT and the crypto industry.
PoS is when a validator (a person in charge of validating a transaction on a blockchain) holds a portion of their crypto holdings as collateral (stake). The system periodically awards one of the validators with the ability to produce the next ‘block’ in the blockchain.
However, there are still a lot of hurdles for PoS to become the primary consensus tool of the blockchain networks.
For one thing, shifting to the PoS model while maintaining functionality is quite challenging for blockchain. Furthermore, because specific systems favor validators willing to gamble the largest amount of stake on the line, the process may drift towards centralization (opposite to the core of blockchain tech, i.e., decentralization). Moreover, the consensus is yet to prove its security as PoW already has.
Ethereum, on the other hand, claims to have made progress toward a proof-of-stake paradigm. According to Tim Beiko, the coordinator for Ethereum’s protocol developers, the ultimate transition will minimize Ethereum’s environmental effect by 99 percent.
NFT Industry Towards a Cleaner Future
The energy consumed in generating and operating NFT platforms is enough to power large countries like Argentina and Nigeria. But should this really be prioritized when so many people worldwide still lack access to dependable power while many are already suffering from the consequences of climate change?
However, the bright side is that the crypto and NFT industries are now marching toward a more environment-friendly future. Furthermore, there does seem to be a push in the crypto industry for more sustainability. Therefore, from the current trajectory, we can expect to see an increase in renewable energy and a steep reduction in emissions in the near future.
Digital Agriculture to Fight Poverty in Africa
Pandemic like COVID-19 and Russia-Ukraine war shows the vulnerability and dependency of poor countries for food security. One in every five people in Africa is facing hunger. In the African continent, 283 million people are fighting hunger. In such a scenario digital agriculture can pave the way for food security and reduction in poverty.
Read More: Impact of Technology on Human Rights
Conditions are particularly worsening for East African countries like Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda witnessing extreme hunger and poverty due to armed conflicts, weather conditions, drought and global food inflation and supply chain disruption due to the Ukrainian war crisis. African people are on the verge of dying from the shortage of food and nutrition.
Also Read: Human Rights on the Brink of Tragedy Due to a Severe Drought in the Horn of Africa
World Bank Groups developed a COVID-19 Household Monitoring Dashboard for measuring the impact of COVID-19 on smallholders of around 83 poor and developing countries. According to such surveys, 80% of households reported a decline in their income due to COVID-19 impacts. In Ghana, 76% of families whose main source of income was agriculture reported a decline in their income.
Agriculture contributes 23% of African countries’ GDP and is one of the major sectors of the economy. Around 60% of working population in Africa works in agricultural fields. That’s the reason why agricultural failure leads to more than 12 million children being severely malnourished due to food insecurity and 33 million people are at the gate of starvation due to food shortages.
Hence, the development of the agricultural sector can help African nations to see prosperity and become food secure. Further, it can help the rising population growth and reduce the burden of shortage of arable land in future.
Most farmers in Africa explained challenges regarding lack of information and access to markets and logistics, need for money, inputs, agronomic advice, and transportation facilities.
In such a situation, there seems a hope in digital agriculture, which is the combination of agriculture and technology. Technology can help farmers to become resilient to unseen and random shocks like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Digital agriculture is the flawless integration of digital technologies with livestock and agriculture management and other agricultural processes.
Various technological tools and techniques are used to collect and analyse data for predictive agriculture. Farmers can have fast, accurate and efficient decision making.
Technologies that are commonly used in digital agriculture are sensors, UAVs, communication networks, cloud computing, data analysis, artificial intelligence and machine learning and other advanced machinery and tools.
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) mentioned benefits that can help small farmers are access to data, information, market, reduced operational costs, enhanced production and better supply chain management.
The younger generation especially wants to go for digital agriculture but they are unable due to a lack of training and funds.
Hence, Governments can provide finance, develop knowledge dissemination centres and provide skills to the larger population to adopt digit solutions for agriculture.
Governments and people need to realise the immense potential of digital agriculture for the development of the African region and its people.
Opportunities for Agricultural Revolution
Digital agriculture has multiple benefits throughout the agricultural food chain as documented in a report, “Digital Technologies in Agriculture and Rural Areas“, released by FAO.
- Management of resources can be highly optimised with high anticipation, traceability, and accuracy.
- Data and information can be readily available to the small farmers that will help them in the decision-making process.
- Real-time decisions can be made for the care and utilisation of agricultural inputs like fertilisers, seeds, water and manure according to the exact need and climatic conditions. It will reduce the wastage of resources and make the agriculture output less costly. Farmers can avail themselves more market price.
- Fields, crops and animals can be tracked at the farm level.
- The health of livestock can be tracked on a real-time basis with health devices attached to them. So that required care is given to them on time.
- Digital agriculture helps in developing agricultural systems that are highly predictable and productive and adaptive to climatic conditions.
- There are benefits to a clean environment and climate change as resource optimization would lead to less resource burden and wastage.
- People can reap social and cultural benefits as well with improved communication, development, peace and prosperity.
- Overall farmers can achieve success in higher food security, sustainable livelihood and overall improvement in living standards.
Challenges to adopting digitalization
There is no denying that digital agriculture can change the landscape of the African economy. But it is also true that it would need dramatic changes in farming systems, communities’ mindsets, rural ways of doing agriculture, and resource management. This would definitely be a challenge and requires systematic and holistic efforts from the top to down level. International Organizations like FAO, UNO, and World Bank Group, national Governments, domestic NGOs, knowledge centres, research groups, universities and farmers at large need to be adaptive and supportive. They need active collaboration and communication to make things a reality.
Also Read: The African Great Green Wall
Funds, knowledge creation and dissemination, and skills development are the important milestones to look after.
Conditions for implementing digital agriculture systems
Following are the bare minimum conditions that can be fulfilled to transform the agricultural sector towards more efficient and productive farming systems through digitalisation.
- Development of basic ICT infrastructure.
- Provide education in ICT.
- Government policies and plans to support digital strategies and e-programs.
- Spread the use of mobile, internet and social media.
- Make the farmers aware of agriculture entrepreneurship and digital innovation.
- Establish partnerships between agriculture research scientists working in labs to the farmers at the agricultural grounds. So that farmers can take knowledge and help from the scientific knowledge and skills while scientists can get the real time and behavioural data and feedback directly from the grounds to direct research more towards the local needs of the farmers.
- Government can establish incubators and accelerators programmes to impart skills to the farmers to better utilise digital technologies at the farms.
- Further, the government can provide easy access to equity funds and loans to the farmers.
Successful introduction and implementation of digital technologies in the agriculture sector depends on government support to provide enabling social, economic and policy infrastructure to fully develop the digital agricultural ecosystem in the countries. As technology makes changes with high disruptions, it takes time for society and economic systems to adopt changes and hence they change progressively. Hence, a balance can be created by the government to make an environment for the uptake and effective utilisation of digital agriculture.
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