Earth Day 2024: Where have AI, 5G and wireless taken us?

Earth Day has been with us since 1970. Now it is global, and, boy, how things have changed. I remember in the mid 1990s, things were very different. Back in those days, I was involved with politics in the era of President Bill Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. I recall everyone on both sides wanting to make the environment cleaner and support the cause. Politically, things were a lot calmer back then. 

Since then, we have come quite a long way. In the 1990s we lived in a world with local and long-distance telephone companies, lots of small cable TV providers, early versions of wireless with countless competitors and even the internet was just getting started. There were dozens of small companies in all sectors, and they were all clients of mine.

I listened to their presentations, answered their questions about the changing marketplace and offered the direction they must go if they were to continue to win.

How Earth Day has changed as our world accelerates 

That was back in the early days when Amazon.com

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was a new and smaller company which just sold books. My, my, how far we have come since then.

Back then, technology was new and was operated using analog. That meant the services were basic compared with today. There were no giant computer server farms like we use today to store all the data we generate. Gas was cheap and there was no stress or strain on our ability to provide power to the country. Back then computing and communications systems were basic and bare bones.

Then, in the late 1990s, the digital revolution quickly transformed everything. That’s when the new digital world we live in today started. And it has been changing and sucking more power and creating new waste ever since.

Earth Day is great way to take the temperature of how far we have come

Earth Day has always been a great way to take a snapshot in time. To see where we were, where we are today and where we are heading to tomorrow.

Today, all the new digital technology we discuss is having an enormous impact on our lives and our world. Today we pay more for technology and power, and everything compared to any time in our past. 

Look at how the change-wave has swept over our world, and everything is new and different. Twenty years ago, we had no iPhone or Android or tablet. In fact, segments which were growing back then no longer are. Example: growth in local and long-distance telephone services, cable-television and more. Growth in these sectors has stopped and is now in decline. 

In fact, there is plenty of other technology that has also seen its growth curve rise, crest then fall.

Today, we have new growth tech that has taken their place. Services like wireless, 5G, streaming television, Internet, broadband and much more. Plus, all sorts of new technology is rapidly moving in and continuing to change everything. Smartphones like the iPhone and Android, tablets, laptops and computers, plus so much more like artificial intelligence and Chatbot technology.

Earth Day 2024
The NSA’s Utah Data Center

Quantum Computing, AI, 5G, FWA, satellite broadband, robotics and more

Now, we are amazed with all the new technology that is popping up all the time like AI, IoT, private wireless, 5G Advanced, advanced streaming, Wi-Fi, Chatbot, FWA, 5G home internet, satellite broadband, telecom TV, cloud, VoIP, connected mobility, automated driving, broadband, caller ID, digital health, robotics, smart house and so much more.

As of today, looking ahead I see quantum computing being the next big deal, like AI is today. That means large and small companies in these spaces are going to be competing in a very loud and chaotic marketplace. Unless they have a strong and well-known brand name, how will they be discovered?

As for Earth Day, this latest wave of new technologies and new companies like AI, Chatbot and quantum computers need more electric power, more computer power, more bandwidth, more everything. Much more. Just think about all the server farms which are rapidly growing. They are massive. And the demands on power are as well. 

Today, the U.S. government has its own server farms in the desert. They store information on every email, text message, video conference, web search, online purchase, telephone calls and so much more. That’s in addition to the server farms of all the data driven companies from coast to coast.

Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Meta and more need more power and servers

Just think of Amazon as mentioned earlier. Back in the 1990s, Amazon was just a small company with simple needs. Today, Amazon has their own server farms for all the businesses they are in. Plus, they sell cloud services to their customers, both business and consumer. And they have warehouses from coast to coast. They use electric delivery trucks and are very aware of the need to manage everything and so much more.

Same with many others juggernauts like Google, Microsoft, Facebook or Meta, and so many others.

Earth Day 2024

Now, multiply that reality by a gazillion times and you can begin to get the sense of how immense the need for power and data storage is. And things get bigger and more intense with each year that passes with new technology like AI, IoT and more.

As amazing as the technological leap that we have gone through in the past 30 years has been, there is also a real cost. A cost to us, to the environment, to our world. That’s why we need to step forward carefully, thoughtfully and responsibly. We need to move forward, but we also need to protect our society and the order of things. After all, we can’t move ahead by cutting our legs out from underneath us.

The electric car is a great example. On one hand, this gives us choices we want as a nation. On the other hand, the transformation is happening slower than we originally expected. Not everyone wants it. Not yet anyway.

There is room for this to take time for the human mind to catch up and choose something different. Plus, we need more infrastructure like charging stations. And we need to prevent the batteries from losing charge in the cold and so much more. Many say the new rechargeable batteries do not make the world cleaner. In fact, they cause their own new problems.

So, while the EV marketplace is growing, it is also not a perfect replacement. There are still plenty of things that need to be worked out over time. 

This year what does Earth Day tell us?

Moving to this new world will happen, but it will take time. We’ve always moved forward. We will always move forward. However, people choosing the direction they go is different than being forced before they are ready. One, the consumer will push back. The other, they do not. 

Commemorating Earth Day shows us both good and bad. It is an important way to determine where we are and where we are heading tomorrow as we continue to advance with new ideas and new technology. That being said, we need to have our eyes open and understand the benefits, the drawbacks, the dangers, the cost, the risk and the benefit of every step forward that we take. 

This year’s Earth Day shows we have made a lot of progress in recent decades. But we still have quite a long way to go on our journey which began April 22, 1970. Every year as technology continues to grow, it demands more to make it all work. Let us keep moving forward, but responsibly.

Read more: Earth Day 2024: Bringing communities together


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