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Can code save the planet?

codingmindfully profile image Daragh Byrne 惻1 min read

Can code save the planet?

The state of the world sometimes keeps me up at night. Global warming, plastics in the ocean, corruptions in the food supply, pharmaceuticals in the water supply, creeping fascism, political and financial turmoil...

What's a coder to do?

Surely technological visions and solutions also abound, and I'd like to know what they are. So tell me! I'm actually an optimist, despite the bleak view above.

I've been wondering - is it possible to apply the skill of coding to the act of saving the world? If so, how are you doing it? Do you know anybody else who is doing it? I want to know about projects, technologies and programmers who give you hope for the future!

Discussion (8)

moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

If it allows for more efficient use of resources elsewhere - for example a cloud-based app that picks shorter routes for delivery vehicles - then it's not that simple. The whole system contaminates less at that point.

lsponzoni profile image
  1. Transport planning: While this may not be save, it can mitigate impact while we find better solutions. Efficient vehicular routing logistics, like ride sharing, dial-a-ride, school bus problems.
  2. Consume planning: We can also reduce how much we eat, say an app like "eat this much"stops people going overweight.
  3. We can also plan how we distribute this food efficiently, think uber but for food.
  4. Wageningen has shown amazing agro tech that makes them more productive. For example to save water, coordinating water sensors and weather prediction. Crop quality analysis by image processing, drones to pesticide. But that is not code alone.
  5. Indirect influence, this one is the most interesting, by helping people to lift their weights and do their jobs easier, learn better, etc. They might find how to save the world. Cool examples of this are in open source. Think on the relationships of Khan academy React and live editor.
codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne Author

Great list. Very practical and gives me a bit of hope!

codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne Author

4 is the sort of thing Iā€™m really after!

sudiukil profile image
Quentin Sonrel • Edited

Code is like math, it's nothing but a tool and it's useless if not used properly. Code (and computing and tech in general) could (and will) certainly help to solve the problem but I don't think any solution will come from it, it will just be a way to apply this solution.

That being said, code/computing/tech can also be an issue when it comes to environmental problems. Computing requires power and you know what that means for the environment.

drbearhands profile image
DrBearhands • Edited

I think what can be done with software is limited, because it acts in the virtual domain rather than the physical one.

Generally speaking, the problem isn't a lack of software, so the solution isn't going to be more software.

Keeping that in mind, any (partial) solution from software must be either about reducing software's own negative influence or providing useful information or communication for things that do affect the physical world.

The first option mostly means writing more efficient programs. Ditch python in favor of rust. This isn't going to accomplish much.
Alternatively you could store computations for times when renewable energy sources are overproducing. You'd be storing work rather than storing energy, the later being the focus of much renewable energy research. Even if you'd get all non-critical computation in the world to 0 emissions this way, I doubt it would make a big difference.

For the second, in essence, you'd play support for people who do fix or alleviate these problems. E.g. government agencies concerned with monitoring adherence to environmental laws or a relevant department at a university or research institute, both are often looking for software engineers.

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