Digital Sustainability

Digtial sustainability(Macgilchrist 2021)

The term “Digital sustainability” may seem new to a lot of people, myself included. I often think about sustainability and how one’s consumption of the available resources can affect the future generations and how our carbon footprint can affect our planet. I even thought about how overwhelming the digitalization of every aspect of our lives is , however I never thought about transformative sustainability in the digital age.

Digitalization, Artificial intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), can actually be tamed into transforming our lives to create sustainable solutions to our global issues. However along this process we might face issues of inequalities, global power concentration, privacy and personal data being at risk, There’s  also an issue of the governance of everything that’s digital. I mean the government/administrators can’t manage what they can’t understand (Messner 2020). And I believe that this was the case with Facebook and its unauthorized data collection and sharing several times, it has been put into trial before but nothing actually changed. In addition to increasing the consumption in case of e-commerce as when things became too accessible the demand on e-commerce products increased leading to mass consumption instead of repairing or sharing products which doesn’t advocate sustainability. (Tilmann Santarius 2021)

Digitalization has the power to transform our societies and economies by its following traits:

1-Interconnectivity: everything and everyone can be connected to each other through the internet and the idea of (IOT) internet of things.

2-The shifting in cognition abilities: AI and ML cognition is expected to match the human’s by 2050. what do you think that will mean to the human existence? especially when there are actually studies that claim that the human intelligence is declining (Yirka 2018). Maybe we should hold tight to what makes us humans like emotions, empathy and social capabilities and things that technical systems can’t develop to ensure our survival and the continuity of the human race. However that form of continuity itself is questionable. I mean some people talk about genetic modifications, health enhancements and stabilization…etc. (Messner 2020)  I think that these topics are critical and can be subjective to one’s morals because where is the red line that we should not cross?

3- Autonomous systems: through which optimized and systematic decisions can be made however the idea of democracy within such system is questioned. (Messner 2020) There has been an issue in gender bias tech systems because of the dominancy of the elite tech companies by Caucasian men , if we left autonomous system to run critical decisions won’t that lead to racism and social injustice in some cases?

4-Virtualty: One can visit anyone anywhere. Virtual mobility had peaked during the pandemic and the lock down, leading to a noticeable decrease of the global carbon emission (Tilmann Santarius 2021) So maybe now we can actually replace the thousands unnecessary flights to conferences and the long hours of commuting to attend meetings that can be done with virtual mobility and online meetings.

5- Knowledge explosion: the abundance of knowledge about everything nowadays may be used either to solve global problems or destroy the planet depending on whose hands does the information fall into and how much power and authority these hands have.

I agree with Dr.Drik Messener when he said that the SDGs (sustainable development goals) need an update to suit both the digitalization potentials and challenges because these goals were put way before that rapid advancements in the digital world and the Transformation of the societies and economies.


Macgilchrist, Prof. Dr. Felicitas Macgilchrist Prof. Dr. Felicitas. 2021. “‘Sustainably Digital – Digital Sustainability.’” July 4, 2021.

Messner, Dirk. 2020. “Sustainability in the Digital Age | Dirk Messner | TEDxBonn.” November 18, 2020.

Tilmann Santarius. 2021. “Smart Green World? Making Digitalization Work for Sustainability | Tilmann Santarius | TEDxTUBerlin.” YouTube.

Yirka, Bob. 2018. “Researchers Find IQ Scores Dropping since the 1970s.” June 12, 2018.