Stop Data Littering! Start Algorithmic Sustainability Now!

data waste_digital twins

How much data do you waste every day? You might think that data is harmless, but it’s not. Data littering is a serious issue that affects our environment, privacy, and security. Here’s how digital twins can help us reduce our digital footprint and create more sustainable and also profitable products.

Today, when you acquire almost any kind of product, it already has a significant digital footprint. Chances are that it contains a QR- or barcode, serial number, manufacturing date and other data, even physically etched.

All these are artifacts of digital processes during the design, engineering, manufacturing and distribution processes. The conveyor belt model has been oiled well, as we push out more products than ever before, in many cases to be used only for a short period of time.

Over the last 150 years we have, time and again, realized that unidirectional mass production creates equally massive environmental problems. Examples range from poisonous landfills to ultimately climate change due to uncontrolled CO2 emissions by burning fossil fuels.

While we have taken steps to protect our planet with regulation and more sustainable manufacturing practices, the cybernetic side is more viewed like a support tool. In other words, we are littering our digital environment with unused data and one-time solutions, just like we did with physical resources during the initial industrial revolution.

We now have light speed communications, in addition to data processing & strorage cababilities across the planet. They have changed many aspects of our lives in the forms of e.g. Internet, e-commerce and education. However, many of the unsustainable, one-time business models are still here, just with some digital makeup.

A Call for Digital Responsibility

In order to ensure our planetary and financial sustainability, I argue that nothing should be produced, sold or delivered without a real Digital Twin. The Digital Twin ultimately becomes the master merchandise. Much like Universal Product Codes (UPCs) are standardized in barcodes globally, we need to grasp our digital responsibility. That’s the key in creating sustainable products along new business models. Yes, there are security and privacy concerns. But we have all the means to tackle them by actually solidifying digital rights and ownership within the Digital Twin.

The Digital Twin of even the cheapest product should contain the epitome of the product lifecycle. No matter if it is 15 minutes or 51 years. We have all the means to do this, but thinking is still lacking behind. We owe this to future generations and must act now, otherwise our generation will be remembered only for its Data Littering.

More on the related fire-and-forget: Don’t Fire-and-Forget Your Products


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