ICT and a sustainable society | Elina Eriksson



so as I was presented I'm an assistant professor here at kth and I'm an assistant professor in the subject of human-computer interaction with a specialization in sustainability which is the first title at my school including sustainability in ICT here as you see on the on the slide is information and communication technologies and you could wonder what has that to do with sustainability and I will come to that in a little while I actually have my undergraduate education from kth I'm a computer scientist and I graduate he graduated from here in 2004 but I've been away and then I'll come back again it has not been a straight path and for me I think the campus here kth is a way to explore what you want to do with society and your life and your education and there are many opportunities to find your own path so my topic is the role of ICT in building a sustainable society and that implies that it's not the sustainable Society today as well as that this talk will be a little bit about the future but first of all I want to talk a little bit about the past so in – in 1917 when this campus was inaugurated my grandfather was born his name was called Erik Erikson and he was the son of a farmhand meaning that he was work his father's work father and mother was working on a farm with it without owning any land or owning their own house they were just this helpers at the farm I think that it was quite a hard life and after finishing elementary school when he was 13 he started working himself as a farmhand and when he was 17 he moved to Stockholm and actually enlisted in the cavalry it's not far from here from the kth campus so these are pictures from his time in when he was enlisted in the cavalry and he is a very beautiful guy here and one here he looks a little bit wicked he's the one with a with a pipe there I think that my grandfather he really tried to make a career of his life but he had so many hardships I'm amazed how far he came so when he was in the cavalry he actually had an accident so he was thrown off a horse and even though he was from from like a working class environment he he was having a career and becoming an officer but his riding accident put a stop to that so he couldn't continue in the cavalry he was really really good with horses so instead he went out and worked at farms again and during the evenings he took an evening class like these letters trying to to learn and become a foreman at these at that time very labor intensive farms so there were many people working at farms and in in his days and someone had to be the boss of them and he tried to become this person by taking this evening classes and it went very well he was quite good at learning these things unfortunately he had another accident so during the winter because in those days you harvested the grain you dried it on the field you took it home and then you thrashed the grain in in the barns during the winter and one day this threshing machine stopped and he went there to take away the whatever was blocking it and when he put his hand into the machine it started working again so he lost his arm I've been told that everybody panicked and my grandfather actually pinched and the artery and vein artery it must be an and held it closed until they came to the hospital which you could imagine took quite a while but he was he was a very hard man I think in many ways so he lost again a career opportunity because he didn't believe that he could be a manager if he was not strong as strong and as capable as the people he was supposed to to lead I will come back to my grandfather a little bit later he died in 2000 year 2000 17 years ago so he didn't see me starting with studying here at kth and I guess that he would be probably quite puzzled or what I'm doing today but still I think he would be very very proud because of this journey that's happened over these hundred years and that me and my brother were the first persons in our family got an academic title or or academic exam so also I think that he must have seen this enormous development during his lifetime especially when it comes to technology because within the forming there was this mechanization and they went from labor intensive to using tractors and other stuff however this fantastic development has also affected us quite negatively so this is where we live it's a black void and a small planet and there are planetary boundaries that we have to take care of and already we know that we are overstepping some of these climate this planetary boundaries for example the climate barrier we see that there are already effects of climate change which is dependent on the huge development that we've had there is also a barrier that concerns phosphorus and nitrogen cycles and that is very closely tied to farming and so on so I think we really need to Kate take care of this small globe floating in the space and it's our responsibility today to act on this so that we don't overstep the barriers more and force this system into a negative position so what's this got to do with ICT you would probably think I've been talking a little bit about agriculture and I talk about my grandfather and not mentioned information and communication technology so far well there's always direct effects of the technologies we use and mobile phones etc and the direct negative effect comes from mining finding the materials the energy that we used in the manufacturing processes the transportations of the technologies that we're producing the energy they use within their lifetime and also what happens with the stuff that we use when we throw them away where does the e-waste being handled and do we really use all the materials that we were already put into these things so if you want to bring something with you from this presentation it is that the amount of environmental impact of your stuff is much larger than the energy they used during their lifetime so keep your mobile phones and your computers for longer ok this was not very positive like 4 o'clock in the morning should I really talk about the negative impacts of ICT yes I should they're also indirect effects and that means that it's not the direct effects on my mobile phone but it could be what I use it for and that can actually be positive so I think it's good to talk about both the negative and in positive effects indirect effects so what could that be well you have optimization you have dematerialization you can make things more Swift and we can make it more efficient we can make make use of less stuff so for example this is my huge musical library but it's also my reading library and I do training and keep all the data in this one and so on and so on so I don't need all these books or all these CDs or whatever we were using earlier to listen to music it's also the case that we can use mobile phones ICT and and all the apps and programs to help other people to make more sustainable choices so the picture here is the energyaware clock which has the potential of helping people to understand how their electricity usage looks like with over the day and they can see patterns and they can decide on how to to use less energy or shift their energy balance and that are different ways of helping people to do better choices yes and I think that I'm quite late in this communications block and I and one of the things with ICT is that it has this transformative power it's an amazing tool that has shaped our society specially in the last 10 or 20 years so on this picture you see this girl with the prosthesis this biomechanical arm that she can move with her electrical currents in her arm so she can use it as a real arm so I want to come back to my grandfather this is this is his arm this is what he was working with for half of his life after having this threshing accident I can still remember the sound of my grandfather when he was turning the wheel in the car because it was clunking sound every time he took a new grip on the steering wheel and this looks very simple but for him I think it was the thing that made him able to be a farmer on his own so he he rented land I was a farmer in the end of his life and my father took over that farm but actually there's a little bit a funny story about this because in nineteen in the end of nineteen sixties my grandfather was one of the first people in Sweden who were trying out this electrical mechanical arm so I have this hand that's a little bit scary at home and this huge battery were and that he was one of the first to try out and what he could do was only pinch three fingers like this I guess that he never used it in in his farming because it was really really hard work and I think it could have broken quite easily another anecdote is that my grandfather had huge hands or actually hand and and it was always kind of dirty because he was working on the farm so a huge dirty sunburned hand and they gave him another prosthesis that was he was supposed to have you know to look more human to have two hands and not like Captain Hook and he did not really like using that because it was a little bit slim hand it was very wide more like a office workers hand and but he worried sometimes and one time he worked when they went to the small city close where he lived and they were having like this Sunday stroll in the city and he was walking there and then he dropped the hand it just fell off and there was a woman nearby who fainted but those are the things that can happen so we have this transformative power of ICT and we can do so many things so what should we do then well I think that if we look like an analogy to the farming situation the technological development can be really really good so my grandfather went from tending horses and managing many people at the farm to having just tractors and being alone on the farm today you have this huge farming units that you can survey and you can you can exactly know how much manure or things you have to put on the fields to get the perfect yield of the grains that you're growing but it can also do harm I mean my grandfather he was standing without any facial masks without any special gloves or anything working with grain that had been covered with pesticide and fungicide which was good I mean the yields were better but he was actually inhaling all these different chemicals and they've they know that these chemicals today cause cancer and even Parkinson and we have the same position with the ICT it's a perfect tool it's transformative but we have to also think about how we use it so that we don't overstep this planetary boundaries that we don't push this system this very fragile earth that we're living on further into position where we don't want to be so here we have a picture of two students and I want to come back to kth because I think this is where the future is shaped these particular students I don't know them but I know that they playing a game called Kazuko and it's about sustainability and on my darkest days these are my greatest hope these are the young people who will go out in the world and change it and make it a better and more sustainable society and what gives me hope is that not only are they very excellent and smart but they are also super engaged and really really creative and they can do so many things that I couldn't do when I was a student here partly because the technology and the development have changed over three years but also because perhaps the education has started to change to also include a larger system boundary and understanding the larger picture so that they can take more ethical considerations into account and that they can use this technology to actually do something to do some change in a positive direction not that we have not done it before but I think this expanding the boundaries of what we care about is important not only solving the problem here and now but actually looking at how will it be for future generations how will it be for people on the other side of the earth what about the animals and plants are they including in our considerations when we develop our technology so with have work to do I guess but we can do it together so we're standing here we celebrating hundred years it's mind-boggling to think about the things that's happened during the last hundred years and I think about my grandfather and and what he must think of me when I'm standing here if he's looking down on me and if he would understand what I'm doing I think that he would be proud that I'm interested in connecting the earth that he was dealing with the technologies my students develop and looking into the future I think that it's important to remember that technological development can both be positive and negative and that we have to decide what we want to do with it and we have to steer it so that we use it for good things and staying away from the negative effects of the technology so for example the pace today the technologies develop is making us change our mobile phones or computers way too often and this is a having distressing the planet and in having negative effects when I look forward I think about 2117 which is really hard to say I wonder how we will talk about this year in the future I will not be here I think but potentially a great grandchild of mine couldn't stand here at the campus and is giving a speech on then 200 years anniversary maybe my great grandchild would be an assistant professor at that time I've been counting on this so that could potentially happen and I wonder what they will talk about and I don't really know I can't predict what what the technological development will be I know that there have been speakers here we've been talking about future studies and it's really hard to talk about the future hopefully their teaching and their research will be addressing problems that are less pressing than ours are today and that we have come to grips with all these planetary boundaries and keeping the system in a good position and hopefully they will look back at us and say that we made the right choices and that we use technological development in doing good and I hope that they will be proud of us and that we have a giving Society something good through this thank you

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