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Costs of Consumption December 8, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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This is going to be a bit disjoint and rambling, but bear with me. I’m not going to attempt to address all of the issues presented in any depth at all.

If anything I’m just going to unlock the box and let you, the reader, consider them as interrelated, all part of a picture of consumption that could doom us all.

What started this was a bit of a read at Rough Type about the energy costs associated with running the Avatars for the game Second Life.

…If there are on average between 10,000 and 15,000 avatars “living” in Second Life at any point, that means the world has a population of about 12,500. Supporting those 12,500 avatars requires 4,000 servers as well as the 12,500 PCs the avatars’ physical alter egos are using. Conservatively, a PC consumes 120 watts and a server consumes 200 watts. Throw in another 50 watts per server for data-center air conditioning. So, on a daily basis, overall Second Life power consumption equals:

(4,000 x 250 x 24) + (12,500 x 120 x 24) = 60,000,000 watt-hours or 60,000 kilowatt-hours

Per capita, that’s:

60,000 / 12,500 = 4.8 kWh

Which, annualized, gives us 1,752 kWh. So an avatar consumes 1,752 kWh per year. By comparison, the average human, on a worldwide basis, consumes 2,436 kWh per year. So there you have it: an avatar consumes a bit less energy than a real person, though they’re in the same ballpark.
…Posted by nick at December 5, 2006 07:58 AM

A bit further down someone comments on the real commerce that occurs as a part of the game, and somewhere along the line they brought in the rate of urbanization of the population of China.

…Finally, if you are really going to do this calculation, you should really be comparing it to what you can do in SL, which is a lot more than avatars just running around. Anywhere SL goes you have markets — to the tune of US$3.5 million a month exchanged for US$ — as well as education, jobs, etc. Think about China, for example. 1% of China is urbanizing a year, so that’s 13 million people a year moving into the equivalent of 2 new New York Cities a year, seeking jobs, education, and opportunties. If you could instead take broadband, power, and computers to the rural areas — carrying SL and markets with them — how much power would you save? Or, if doing business collaboration in SL allows you to save 5% of your travel budget, how much energy do you save in giving up 1 flight in 20? The full carbon picture is where the interesting questions are. How do virtual worlds allow you to dodge traditional geographic limitations?
Posted by: Cory Ondrejka

Ahhh… now the picture comes into focus. The megatons of cement produced/used in China (see my “Concrete Gorge Article”) that were not accounted for as a result of the Three Gorges Dam, are going in to building the equivalent of a city, per year, capable of housing some 13 million people.

From China Daily an even grimmer picture emerges

To accommodate this new urban population, the country needs a huge amount of resources, currently accounting for 40 per cent of the world’s total annual cement consumption and 30 per cent of the annual steel consumption.

In addition, current construction projects account for around 30 per cent of the global total, said the vice-minister. He estimated that it would be another 30 years before the initial phase of China’s urbanization is completed.

Over the next thirty years, the urban population of China is expected to double, with associated costs of living urban lifestyles. How will a world rapidly straining its limits in terms of natural resources, be able to afford continued growth rates such as these?

And from a moral, and more pragmatic position, how are we in the western world going to be able to tell the Chinese “No, you can’t come to the game table and play with us.”

Even if it kills us all.

Life and Hearts is in session. Are you ready to “Hunt the bitch?”

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