Moore’s Law Is Killing The Planet, One Smartphone At A Time

One thing that seems a little strange to us here at Whole People is that there’s a lot of focus on farming and fashion in the ethical consumption world but much less so on technology and, in particular, Moore’s Law. 

Yet, once you take a little look under the hood, you quickly find that technology is making a dirty mark on the planet we live on too.


Introducing Moore’s Law

In 1965, an engineer by the name of Gordon Moore made a prediction. He said that every year the number of transistors on a silicon chip would double. 

This seemed a fairly innocuous thing at the time. But in 2020, it still holds true. 

moore's law

Every year, they manage to get more and more capacity on the same silicon chip and while, there may be an end to this in sight, there’s no end to the demand for increased storage space on drives and memory, the want for megapixels on cameras, better screens, etc. and each of these has its own version of Moore’s law to follow. 


Why Does This Matter?

Well, Moore’s law is killing our planet.  This isn’t Gordon Moore’s fault. 

Being clever is definitely not an environmental crime but our own demand for the “improvements” that Moore’s law brings is a real problem. 

In 2018, Americans threw out over 150 million smartphones! 

To break that down – that’s more than 400,000 phones a day hitting the landfill. 

And we’re not alone on this.


And this isn’t all our fault. 

Because beneath the surface of the tech industry is a group of massively powerful conglomerates addicted to our urge to buy new hardware on a regular basis.

Apple, Samsung, Intel, NVidia, AMD, Microsoft, Google, Huawei, etc. all have one thing in common. 

Their devices have limited shelf-life. 

They’re hard to repair at the best of times and once they’ve been out of the market for a year or two, they’re often impossible to get parts for. 

In addition to that, they often require hyper-specialist tools to prevent you from repairing your own devices and in the case of Apple, they may even include a chip designed to lockdown the hardware if you even try to repair it yourself!

Apple was even caught downgrading the performance of older phones to deliberately drive the replacement cycle of their iPhones! 


The Human Cost Of Moore’s Law

The saddest part of this is that the damage done by this industry doesn’t stop in the landfills of the West. 

It’s felt hardest in the electronic waste dumps of Africa, where old hardware goes to die and where tens of thousands of people try to make their livings recovering parts from them. 

Many of the workers here are children, children who should be in school, instead. 

They are provided with no safety equipment or training. 

The products they salvage are so toxic that many will have incurable cancers by the time that they reach adulthood. 

the Human Cost of Moore's Law

This is “digital dumping” and it’s driven by our thirst for “better” electronic products. 

Of course, we don’t really need much of the “improvements” that new devices are meant to bring but thanks to the manufacturers, you may not have a choice when it comes to buying your next device.


Looking Forward?

Things are changing, thankfully. 

We’ve already featured Fairphone, a company that makes upgradeable smartphones. 

People like Amory Lovins are out there trying to promote more ethical ways of doing business in the first place.

But it takes you, the consumer, to make the real difference. 

Letter Writing For Moore's Law

You need to let companies know what you expect from them when it comes to this area of waste. 

Businesses only change when their customers demand that they do. 

Write to brands and let them know how you feel about this. 

Look for ethical alternatives. 

Try to extend the life of things you already own without replacing them (YouTube is great for tutorials on repairing electronics) and together we can all change the way that Moore’s law is currently destroying the planet. 


If you enjoyed this article and are looking for some other positive changes that you can make in your life, why not switch to vegan leather and be kinder to cows? 

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