Sign In

Communications of the ACM


Let Us Not Put All Our Eggs in One Basket

hand putting an egg into one of four baskets, illustration

Credit: Pan JJ

Our colleagues at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCCaa) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBESb) have been telling us for years the situation is serious. Last year saw both the publication of the sixth IPPC report, and dramatic illustrations of the impacts of climate change. Researchers and teachers in all disciplines face the question: What can you do in your professional life? If you search the Internet for occurrences of "carbon-neutral university," you will find a long list of declarations by universities worldwide, claiming they will be carbon neutral by 2030 or 2040. I will not discuss here whether carbon-neutrality objectives are feasible or even make sense at all (see Dyke3). I take this series of declarations as a symptom that the academic world is hopefully starting to take scientific results seriously, at least concerning the impact of our work organizations.

In computer science, several personalities have started questioning our peculiar organization that gives an important role to conferences,8 advocating for a massive change in how research is made and disseminated. Funders also have a significant impact.2 As far as I am concerned, I stopped airline travel completely, and that is the least I can do, having done quite a lot in the past 30 years. But when I ask myself "what should I do?", when my students ask "are we part of the solution, or part of the problem?", I also look at my research and teaching topics, and I feel compelled to question the contributions of these topics to the development and impacts of the digital world as a whole. It is tempting to look at the positive impacts only. The public discourses tend to present the "digital transition" as a necessary and non-questionable solution to the needed "ecological transition." Our research community has the responsibility to consider several hypotheses, including one in which the digital world is part of the problem.


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.