anyone ever told you "premature optimization is the root of all evil"?

let me tell you a story. about computers and javascript and hitler and the soviet union.

a friend of mine just dug up some numbers and did some math for my dyscalculic ass and came up with the conclusion that just by transmitting the minified version of jquery around (not even executing it!), Planet Earth is likely using up somewhere between 7-14 billion kWh of power every year.

let's put that into some perspective.

world war two was the single deadliest conflict in human history. it killed somewhere around 80 million people, which at the time was three percent of *all humans, everywhere.* it left europe in ruins, and nowhere was the damage so intense and horrific as the Soviet Union.

the Battle of Stalingrad is one of the most famous battles of the war. two million people died there alone. in the opening salvos the entire city was flattened by nazi and soviet bombs alike. eventually the Union prevailed, at a tremendous cost.

but Stalingrad was only one of the cities flattened, only one of the battles fought as Europe burned. the devastation was so comprehensive that nearly every western nation had to rely on aid from the US, one of the only powers on either side whose economy was intact, to rebuild. (it didn't help that American wartime policy was designed more to inflict as much Nazi death and destruction as possible on the Soviets, of course).

if we add up the energy of every single explosive device detonated over the course of that terrible war, from hand grenades all the way up to the two atom bombs the US detonated over japan, slaughtering civilians en masse and turning two cities to rubble in the space of a moment, we get the figure of about 3 megatons. or in kilowatt hours, 3.4 billion, spread out across all those years of war.

compared to 7-14 billion kWh just to transmitting the same tangle of bytes around again and again. every single year.

and that's just jquery. not the cost of executing it. not the mass of other garbage javascript and analytics and social media spyware, which now often adds up to megabytes per page. not the cost of rendering or running any of that.

just to zap jquery back and forth across the internet to every computer accessing a website that uses it.

a final point of comparison, now that i have your attention: bitcoin uses up 46,000 billion kilowatt hours per year. a number which is likely to keep on growing.

draw your own conclusions about web design & software optimization.

@velartrill If you want energy use to go down, energy /prices/ have to increase.

Efficiency /buys more power expenditure/, because it effectively /lowers prices/.

Wm. Stanley Jevons, 1860s. The Jevons paradox.

We've made computers millions of times more efficient over the past 40 -50 years. That hasn't /reduced/ the number of computers or amount of computation, it's /increased/ it. And ... for comparatively little upside.

@dredmorbius or we could just outlaw high-energy cryptocurrency mining. or tax it out of existence. which are both emininetly enforcible and would both improve the world without putting needless burdens on low-income folks like myself, who are not actually causing the problem, and would be the people most affected by whatever scheme you're dreaming up to manipulate energy prices on a global scale.

also, the only way to decrease energy use by corporations (who are, i reiterate, what is mostly wasting all this energy) is to make their current practices unprofitable. which would require raising prices so goddamn high, worldwide, that anyone making less than $1k/y would live in darkness for the rest of our lives

in other words, this is just about the dumbest idea i've ever heard

@velartrill Outlawing a thing is roughly equivalent to raising costs of production _of that one thing_. The problem is that this _doesn't_ affect the costs of production for _everything else_ that uses the same inputs, and specifically: energy (and fossil-fuel derived energy).

The real problem is that the costs of fossil fuels are far below the true economic and ecological costs.

That said: placing specific taxes or taboos on activities with high negative externalities is sensible.

@dredmorbius "Outlawing a thing is roughly equivalent to raising costs of production _of that one thing_" might want to run that one by your lawyer, sparky

@velartrill The points are this:

The costs rise _for that thing_. They might rise unacceptably high. If the punishment is light and conviction is rare, they might not. There are plenty of things which are technically illegal which are regularly performed. (And others which ... are not.)

But more significantly, _if you're trying to reduce utilisation of some factor of production_, you've generally failed. Because _competing_ uses of that input still exist, and if the input is cheap, ...

@velartrill ... they'll continue to be produced.

Options like a carbon emissions tax effectively address the _inputs_ rather than the _outputs_. If you burn a pound of fossil fuel, you'll produce about 3 pounds of CO2 emissions, more or less. Apply that tax based on inputs consumption and you're constraining _all_ uses of that input.

Another point from my earlier stream: if you're taxing things _whose quantity is fixed_ you don't reduce the amount supplied. Tax economic rents.


@dredmorbius so your argument boils down to an arbitrary claim that the law won't be enforced. which is a completely spurious argument

@velartrill No it does not.

Some laws are enforced and are enforceable. Some aren't.

Some laws are _uniformly_ enforced, others are not.

The point is that if you're trying to limit _inputs consumptions_, taxing or restricting specific _outputs_ won't do much for you.

@velartrill Most especially, things in fixed supply. The classic is land. Taxing land doesn't reduce the amount, only the allocation of profit. It's a perfect wealth tax, and was advocated as such by Smith, Ricardo, and Henry George.

It's also relatively hard to hide.


@dredmorbius can you maybe try to focus on the topic at hand instead of going off on some bizarre crypto-libertarian rant
@dredmorbius your claim that a law against high-energy crypto mining wouldn't be enforced is arbitrary and unevidenced. your claim that banning crypto mining "wouldn't reduce competing inputs" is irrelevant because competing inputs are not the threat.
@dredmorbius banning high-energy crypto mining is trivial. mining on a profitable scale takes an absolutely enormous amount of power. all it takes is a bit of statistics work by the local power company and seizure of existing crypto corps operating in the open. the only way to hide electricity use from the state is to generate your own, and i'm not sure how that could ever be a threat on the same scale

@velartrill You're countering an argument I didn't make.

The law could be *perfectly* and *efficiently* enforced. But if there are cheap and wasteful applications of electrical power, or computational uses (say, hypothetically, tossing terabytes worth of Jquery code around the global infocomms network), you'll still be wastefully burning whatever it is you wastefully burn to get gigawatts.

@velartrill If that's what you're taking from my comments, I'm failing to express myself clearly.

This is not a crypto-libertarian argument or rant.

It was another party who'd started swinging wide of the original topic.

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