Problem: global warming

The ICT sector emits 4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) and is quickly growing1

Note that 4% GHG correspond to 341 large-scale power stations at the size of 12TWh/year2.

Complication: performance of software is hard to fix

A huge fraction of these costs is caused by inefficient software

There is little awareness of the material cost of IT3 and removing the technical dept of the last 60 years would cost millions of man-years4.

Solution: improve sorting libraries

Part of this technical dept can be removed with little effort5, because it is encapsulated in libraries

Indeed, I believe that virtually every important aspect of programming arises somewhere in the context of sorting or searching ― Donald E. Knuth9

  1. Lean ICT Report March 2019↩︎

  2. 12TWh/year is the average size of a nuclear power station↩︎

  3. The ‘Invisible’ Materiality of Information Technology, COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM, 06/2020↩︎

  4. See for example The Most Expensive One-byte Mistake↩︎

  5. More work of many parties is required to follow for example these 10 Best Practices for Green IT System or this List of Quick Wins to make your software application more efficient↩︎

  6. The other half of ICT costs is related to network communication and external devices such as screens↩︎

  7. Estimate of IBM according to Kurt Mehlhorn (KIT)↩︎

  8. “Developers made much effort to optimize hardware in order to reduce their energy consumption. However, we show in this paper that one also has to consider energy awareness in terms of software. In this study we focus on sorting algorithms, which are not only used directly by the user of a device but also very often implicitly by other algorithms. Our experiments show, that different sorting algorithms have different energy consumptions”, Bunse et. al. 2009, Exploring the Energy Consumption of Data Sorting Algorithms in Embedded and Mobile Environments↩︎

  9. The Art of Computer Programming, Volume 3, Sorting and Searching^↩︎


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