Redefining Progress

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report has made it clear that ‹the time to act is now›. Drastic action is needed globally, and in all sectors, to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and prevent an even worse climate catastrophe. In addition to the threat of human-induced climate change, the world also faces massive species extinctions while social inequalities remain severe. To address these and many other challenges, digital technologies must contribute to improving, rather than hindering, living conditions and support the conservation of climate, biodiversity, and resources. Digitalisation must be designed to support a globally just and sustainable economic system and align technology development, education, and work in a way that strengthens social cohesion. To date, however, digitalisation still has many challenges to overcome. As long as its approach to identifying and addressing these challenges is comprehensive and inclusive, digitalisation can play an important role in a socio-ecological transformation. The contributions in this chapter are intended to provide a brief insight into the challenges of today’s digitalised world. First, an illustration is presented that highlights social and environmental issues arising from current forms of digitalisation. These are recurring themes targeted by Bits & Bäume. Next, our authors identify selected challenges. Fröberg describes how your data is being used by large technology corporations to make predictions about others and how this affects them. In the article, Fröberg argues that regulation should focus more on the social implications of data. The unsustainable use of digital technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence poses further issues. Robben and Hildebrandt explain why blockchain technology is part of the problem and not the often glorified solution to the challenges of organising society and, most importantly, saving the climate. Rehak then defines, classifies, and theorizes AI technology before contextualizing his analysis politically in regard to sustainability. The challenge of hidden resource wastage is the topic of Petri and Ruhenstroth’s article, in which they present a method for measuring the abstract environmental impacts of app use and suggest ways to reduce it. A different methodological approach is taken by Kruijer, Tarara and Schulze, who present a concept for using the method of ‹life-cycle assessments› (LCAs ) to measure the resource consumption of software in order to make its environmental impact comparable and more transparent.

Marja Lena Hoffmann
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