Final Digital Artefact Submission: Impacts of E-Waste and Cryptocurrency

Computers have become a part of peoples everyday lives along with other electronics such as smartphones and even smart-assistants. Because of this I recently decided to build my own PC since I was relying too much on my laptop, but while researching different parts and builds along with where I could buy them I started to wonder what actually happens to, specifically computers, but also any electronic device after it has reached the end of its life cycle? The answer was, I had no idea.

Computers are something we use in our everyday life, whether it be for work, school, entertainment or even just learning in general by looking up new things. Cryptocurrency mining is one activity that uses parts of a PC to earn somebody a source of income by quite literally sitting there doing nothing (well after you have gotten everything set up that is).

Armed with these two topics and an interest which, surprisingly, only grew as I did more and more research I started work on my Digital artefact or DA which is about an 8 minute video (+4 unmarked minutes at the end because I got a little carried away while looking stuff up) which can be found at the bottom of this post. I started off by looking into E-Waste with the intention of finding out how exactly it is recycled but quickly changed my topic to look at what actually happens to e-waste after it has been recycled. I focused on the sheer amount of e-waste and how it is a growing issue, the lack of general knowledge about recycling of e-waste in Australia and how most of this e-waste ends up in other countries where the process of melting down these toxic parts is not done in proper facilities or with the wellbeing of the workers doing it or the environment in mind. For the cryptocurrency component I focused on how the mining of cryptocurrency, which is currently going through a major boom in popularity, has effected the prices of components used to build a PC, specifically the graphics card. I go over how mining of crypto uses a graphics card, the ridiculous increase in cost to graphics cards because of the lack of supple and high demand and finally the possible causes of bringing back down the price of these graphics cards by looking at potential reasons the mining boom may be coming to an end (Reason 1Reason 2).

For the extra part I wanted to look at how cryptocurrencies are being put under regulatory scrutiny in both the US and Australia as the US debates whether these digital currencies should be treated as commodities or securities while in Australia, ASIC, an Australian government organisation, is moving a spotlight onto organisations who deal with ICO’s and are bringing the hammer down on misleading or deceptive conduct which I learnt about through an article released by Clayton Utz, a major law firm in the Country. There were two main reasons why I couldn’t put this last section as part of the actually marked assessment with the first being that I simply didn’t have enough time to talk about it but mainly because it didn’t really have anything to do with the process of building a PC which was the reason I started looking into these topics to begin with.

 

References

Abs.gov.au. (2013). 4602.0.55.005 – Waste Account, Australia, Experimental Estimates, 2013. [online] Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Products/4602.0.55.005~2013~Main+Features~Electronic+and+Electrical+Waste?OpenDocument.

Asic.gov.au. (2018). Initial coin offerings and crypto-currency | ASIC – Australian Securities and Investments Commission. [online] Available at: https://asic.gov.au/regulatory-resources/digital-transformation/initial-coin-offerings-and-crypto-currency/.

Claytonutz.com. (2018). ASIC spotlight on marketing and sale of initial coin offerings – Knowledge – Clayton Utz. [online] Available at: https://www.claytonutz.com/knowledge/2018/may/asic-spotlight-on-marketing-and-sale-of-initial-coin-offerings?utm_source=Insights&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Insights_20180524.

CryptoCurrency Facts. (n.d.). ASIC Mining Basics – CryptoCurrency Facts. [online] Available at: https://cryptocurrencyfacts.com/asic-mining-basics/.

Gilbert, B. (2018). Cryptocurrency miners are making it impossible for people to find a crucial component of PC gaming. [online] Business Insider Australia. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/nvidia-gtx-1080-gpu-impossible-to-find-buy-because-of-bitcoin-2018-1?r=US&IR=T.

Npr.org. (2010). NPR Choice page. [online] Available at: https://www.npr.org/2010/12/21/132204954/after-dump-what-happens-to-electronic-waste.

reddit. (2018). Video card prices and cryptocurrency mining v.2: electric boogaloo • r/buildapc. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/comments/7pjbus/video_card_prices_and_cryptocurrency_mining_v2/.

Rooney, K. (2018). Ethereum falls on report that the second-biggest cryptocurrency is under regulatory scrutiny. [online] CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/01/ethereum-falls-on-report-second-biggest-cryptocurrency-is-under-regulatory-scrutiny.html.

TechCollect. (2017). New research shows Australians holding onto broken devices to the detriment of the environment. [online] Available at: http://techcollect.com.au/new-research-shows-australians-holding-onto-broken-devices-to-the-detriment-of-the-environment/.

The Verge. (2018). Bitcoin mania is hurting PC gamers by pushing up GPU prices. [online] Available at: https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/30/16949550/bitcoin-graphics-cards-pc-prices-surge.

The Verge. (2018). Bitcoin mania is hurting PC gamers by pushing up GPU prices. [online] Available at: https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/30/16949550/bitcoin-graphics-cards-pc-prices-surge.

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Digital Artefact Status: Work In Progress

It has now been multiple weeks since I started work on my Digital Artefact about the process of building a PC and some of the issues involved with cryptocurrency and the effects of e-waste and honestly progress has been, limited. Since beginning the project I have realised that the final submission (if in video format) should only have a length of around 7:30, absolutely cutting my dreams for three different videos all of which would run for between 5-10 minutes. I recently found out though that I could change the structure of the assignment and add the parts about selecting components for the PC and then actually building the PC as extra videos that are unmarked so I plan to do them in that format while having the talk about issues be submitted as the actual assessed material. The reason I have still decided to continue with the videoing of purchasing and building the PC is because it is something that interests me and it seems to me that most similar videos already on the internet fail, to a large extent, to explain it to an uninformed audience in a way that makes sense.

So far I have got all the material for the selection of PC parts video which shows some of the websites that can be used to buy from and explains what different specifications on the parts actually do but have yet to edit the video (mostly because there was an issue with audio recording and I may need to layer a new audio track recorded afterwards over the top). While I wait for the parts to arrive so I can film putting the computer together I have started research into cryptocurrency and e-waste for the marked component, I hope to have a solid enough understanding of it by Thursday next week for my in class presentation on the project since it will be the major topic I talk on.

So far in my research for the third component (marked component) I have started to research the impacts of e-waste, the scale of the issue and what the plans are for the future in certain Countries. Waste from Electronics and Electronic Equipments (WEEE’s) represents the widest source of wastes with the highest growth per year worldwide with up to about 50 million tonnes being dumped per year (Up to 2014) with an estimated growth rate of between 3-5% annually (Cucchiella et al., 2015). Many Countries are beginning to look into recycling options for much of this electrical waste with special focus on the plastic and metals not only because this often toxic waste is filling up space at an extremely fast rate but also because they are easily recyclable and the metals can often be quite valuable. The EU specifically has done research into the value of reselling many of these more valuable materials found in different electronics with the most valuable being platinum with an average value of 37,607 Euro per kilo (followed by gold at around 34,000) (Cucchiella et al., 2015). Even since the early 2000’s e-waste has been a major issue of debate in Countries such as America where in 2005 more than 1.56 million metric tonnes of e-waste was discarded, most of which was dumped in landfills due to no alternative method at the time (Kahhat et al., 2008). Many avenues of encouraging people to recycle electronic parts are being discussed in many Countries, especially in Asian countries where there have been rising concerns about the health consequences that e-waste presents, especially to people at higher health risk such as pregnant women and children (Heacock, Kelly and Suk, 2016).

Cryptocurrencies are another major point that I wanted to talk on, beyond describing what they actually are I want to look into management, use of these currencies, what effects they have on everyday life and potentially look into what the future may hold for them. I have only just begun my research into cryptocurrency in the previous few hours before writing this so I am still not sure of specifically what I hope to talk about in the video component on crypto in my final DA. One of the major points that have interested me in my brief research on the topic is the security surrounding cryptocurrencies like preventing people from tampering with the system itself or from making mutually inconsistent statements to different people, for example trying to convince two different people that you have sold them the same “coin”. Since the method used to ensure security around cryptocurrency cant be physical in nature it makes heavy use of cryptography, which is also the basis of cryptocurrencies themselves, and is a research field that makes use of difficult math equations in an often extremely subtle manner (Narayanan, 2016), which as much as I would love to go into, I currently know nothing about.

References

Cucchiella, F., D’Adamo, I., Lenny Koh, S. and Rosa, P. (2015). Recycling of WEEEs: An economic assessment of present and future e-waste streams. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, [online] 51, pp.263-272. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032115005808 [Accessed 27 Apr. 2018].

Diaz, L., Lister, T., Parkman, J. and Clark, G. (2016). Comprehensive process for the recovery of value and critical materials from electronic waste. Journal of Cleaner Production, [online] 125, pp.236-244. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652616301299.

Heacock, M., Kelly, C. and Suk, W. (2016). E-waste: the growing global problem and next steps. Reviews on Environmental Health, [online] 31(1). Available at: https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/reveh.2016.31.issue-1/reveh-2015-0045/reveh-2015-0045.xml.

Kahhat, R., Kim, J., Xu, M., Allenby, B., Williams, E. and Zhang, P. (2008). Exploring e-waste management systems in the United States. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, [online] 52(7), pp.955-964. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921344908000360.

Narayanan, A. (2016). Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies. [ebook] Princeton University Press, pp.1-2. Available at: https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=LchFDAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=cryptocurrency&ots=ArmIgV1OnE&sig=DOX3RrBy6qILbI6QzZl_bCOa5kI#v=onepage&q=cryptocurrency&f=false [Accessed 27 Apr. 2018].

Live Tweeting to Pass University

Over the past 8 weeks I have been s**tposting live tweeting in one of my university subjects BCM325 (Future Cultures at University of Wollongong Australia) as we watch different movies or TV shows that look at the relationships between man and machine. I have had to use Twitter to engage with the content in previous subjects but for the most part that included me trying to find vaguely relevant articles to some topic that didn’t really interest me and pretend that I had actually read the whole thing beforehand but live tweeting was very, very different.

Live tweeting is the process of commenting on an event that is happening live on the social media platform Twitter where in this case the event was watching these different shows and movies during my Thursday tutorial, and honestly when I started out the concept frightened me. Not for any reason like I’m not confident enough to post things or because I was so clueless as to what was going on in the class itself I had no idea what to write but simply because I had done nothing like it ever before. As far as I was concerned what is the point of writing about something live if a potential heap of people that read it have no idea what I am talking about?

One of the most confusing thing about live tweeting was how people would always tweet something along the lines of “live streaming this week coming from The Matrix #BCM325” and I always wondered why they did that? I mean honestly of course we are, I’m sitting in the classroom with you. When really it is designed to tell there followers what is going on so they don’t confuse everybody with a bunch of random comments coming from nowhere in quick succession (sorry to anyone who saw all of mine).

Now it is time for me to share with anyone reading this some of my tweets, conversations and fellow classmates tweets that I think show just how useful a tool such as Twitter can be for engaging with any kind of work (also here is my Twitter account @TateRobinson4). This first Tweet actually came from yesterdays class when we were watching the original Bladerunner and even though I have never watched it before I can see now why so many people love it.Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 11.51.37 am.png                                                   This is an example of how using Twitter you can have a conversation with someone, across the room, about the movie while it is still on without even knowing who the other person is it saves the time of having a discussion about it and I can link my very academic Wikipedia source that details what I was trying to say.

 

Next up is me stroking my own ego with Tweets that got all of 5 likes or more (wow!) but it seemed the only way for me to manage these staggering numbers was through Tweeting about things completely irrelevant to the work.Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 11.59.01 am.pngScreen Shot 2018-04-27 at 12.00.12 pm.png

 

This next one shows how good Twitter can really be when it comes to a (in this case) a teacher still being able to ask questions of a class even while we are doing something else.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 12.09.49 pm.png                                                                Being able to talk like this saves the trouble of everyone trying to remember discussion points for the length of a movie and then recall them afterwards, you can just put out your thoughts and other people can agree, elaborate or debate at the time.

 

People would often post articles relating to the specific movies and although this is one of those I feel as if the general concept between the social difference between the predicted future in cyberpunk and the present is very different from the way they portray it.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 12.20.30 pm.png                                                               Here is a link to that article if anybody is interested in having a bit of a read.

 

One thing that did surprise me about the process of live tweeting was when people outside of the course would join in the fun. There were multiple times when out teacher would talk about people from all over the world asking what BCM325 actually was with one saying “What is BCM325 and where can I get some!” So here are a couple of tweets that came from people outside the class.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 12.37.26 pm.pngScreen Shot 2018-04-27 at 12.35.48 pm.png

 

Although I was originally going to finish off this post with a few more tweets from me actually talking about the content in class I have decided to make these last two Tweets displayed a couple of jokes that I made during live tweeting sessions, enjoy.Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 12.36.57 pm.pngScreen Shot 2018-04-27 at 12.34.41 pm.png

 

Overall my experience with live tweeting was an unexpectedly positive one, I had never done anything like it in the past but, like I mentioned earlier, I feel like it was a great way to engage with the content while also having a bit of banter with the other students. All I hope is that we get the chance to do something like this again in another subject.

The Life of a Computer

There are countless ‘how to’ videos all over the internet that explain everything from how to complete a certain mission in a game to how you build own car and building Personal Computers, or PC’s, is no exception. Platforms like YouTube are saturated with videos about how to build your own PC and how easy it is to do.

giphy (2).gifScreen Shot 2018-03-23 at 7.41.10 pm

Unfortunately learning how to build something from most of these videos is like learning how to cook. In my experience learning how to cook it felt like every three seconds was somebody saying “and then leave it in the oven until it looks like its done”. Well what in the world is done supposed to look like? What if my oven is different from yours? How do I test when I think something is done? and I believe that videos of people explaining how to build a PC have the same issue, they tend to only make sense to those that know what they are doing.

I have been planning on building my own PC for an embarrassingly long time but have always managed to find excuses as to why I should be putting it off by making claims such as, I just don’t have the money or, I will think about it after I have gotten through this exam period only to promptly forget about it entirely. But if I was being completely honest with myself I would of realised, building a computer doesn’t even need to be that expensive, of course that being said I can’t settle for anything but the best to make sure I can do my university work on a highly responsive and fast computer in at least 2k resolution………. Or at least that is the reason I’m giving anyone who asks. My budget for the project which will include all hardware and software that I will need to make a working computer is between $2000 and $2500 AU and I want to use this opportunity of building my own PC to not only help people understand what all the seemingly random numbers and letters of different parts mean but also how you put them all together to create a finished product.

In case you haven’t quite caught on to what I intend to do yet over the course of the coming months I plan to (most likely) create a short series of youtube videos which address the issues of how to identify different specifications in computer parts and what you should be looking out for to differentiate between a high and low quality product, how to actually build a PC on a level that is hopefully relatable to those as absolutely clueless as myself and finally, but quite possibly most importantly, I want to talk about some of the issues surrounding computers like cryptocurrency mining and its effects on price (Especially how Ethereum mining forced up the price of graphics cards significantly). I also want to talk about how the concept of E-waste (electronic waste) is becoming a growing concern in the global community not only due to the amount of e-waste that exists, but also because of the implications it has on our environment and people’s health.