Your Video Binging Is Killing The Planet, But There May Be A Solution


We know we shouldn’t throw plastic six-pack rings in the ocean, that we shouldn’t take long luxurious showers during droughts, and that we shouldn’t burn toxic waste in our backyards. But when it comes to protecting the planet, we don’t usually think about cutting back on our streaming addiction. Yet it’s true; our binge-watching has a serious environmental footprint.

It’s estimated that the U.S.’s data centers — the computer farms where web companies like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Facebook, Spotify and Vimeo store their content — consume as much power as the entire state of New York. Recent reports suggest their carbon emissions are on the rise, growing by more than 10 percent a year. Much of that is driven by video streaming, with Netflix estimated to take up nearly 37 percent of the Internet bandwidth in the U.S. during peak hours.

Our appetite for video is unlikely to wane any time soon. That’s why researchers from the University of California-Berkeley, MIT and the University of Colorado are so excited about a new computer chip they’ve developed that promises to increase efficiency and decrease the carbon footprint of cloud computing. In a recently published paper in the science journal Nature, the researchers describe an electronic-photonic chip, the first computer chip that uses light, instead of electricity, as the highway for information. It’s theoretically a win-win: it would lessen the ecological toll of our computers, plus nothing travels faster than light.

This “is a real tour-de-force,” said Rajesh Menon, a photonics expert at the University of Utah who wasn’t involved in the study.

It’s up to 50 times faster than today’s commercially available chips, according to the researchers. The chip, which can run simple programs, won the $200,000 <a target="_blank" —> Read More