Notes on Longtermism and sustainability.
In an age of disposable smart devices and unrepairable electronics, there are few topics that occupy my mind as much as solutioning for resilience.
Living aboard a sailboat, away from reliable internet connectivity, outside of delivery networks, forces us to explore ways with which we can strenghten and simplify the toolset onto which we rely.
Casting off, we abandon 3-in-1 packages, bloated always-online services and general planned obsolesce, and establish practices of recyclism, minimum viable products, small-sharp modular utilities. We see smart and resilience as opposing attributes to a device, smart is inherently contrary to a single purpose tool, and thus incompatible with longtermism.
Our focus over the past years has gradually shifted toward open-source software and modular(combinable) electronics. Looking back, we are proud of the open-source tools that we created, enabling a handful of people to exit subscription services, and inscrutable closed-source utilities. Moving forward, we begin to consider hardware, or at least software that resides closer to the metal.
I periodically find myself thinking about operating systems, or more specifically the interaction design of OSes. In attempting to tackle the difficult UX challenges of that space, unrealizing that my failure to solve these issues might very well come from the simple fact that the purpose of operating systems is to enable multi-tasking, multi-tasking that I try to eradicate from my daily life, making these issues deeply unsolvable and my love for sharp tools and OSes irreconcilable.
Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn't re-orient our focus onto things that can run on small low-power open-source single-purpose boards, but I also consider the impact of pushing for the production of more electronics as problematic, perhaps creating software targeting old hardware might be what I'm looking for.
Despite all this, I dream of a line of simple electronics, each one designed for a single purpose. Or even for things beyond the realm of electronics, like a kit bicyle with all its superfluousities removed — As it becomes increasingly difficult to find simple models with easily serviceable parts.
My dream sailboat has no diesel engine, no fuel outboard and no lead acid battery storage, but instead a compressed air engine with its compression stored in diving tanks, a bike crank powered compressor, a hydro generator pump, and a dynamo to charge our low-power electronics. The only crucial electronic systems connected to the house tanks would be the AIS transceiver, the VHF radio, a basic chartplotter and habitat lighting. Our work and entertainment electronics, like our laptops and cameras, would run off solar charging a minimal array of standard batteries.
Is there a way to create and distribute software and electronics in a way that is environmentally conscious? perhaps not.