Are We Living
a Green Life?
by SOYOUNG KIM
1 Lucky Letter to U
I want to start this letter with the story about ‘chain letters’. Have you ever received and sent a chain letter or message to others? When I was a teenager, this letter flew around me and my friends a lot. In Korea, we called this kind of letter ‘lucky letter’ which was believed to give senders good luck. I found the most famous version of the lucky letter from the link below;
(But be careful! It is written in Korean, so I’ll write down the English translation)
This letter started in the UK and has been circulated over the world every year, giving good luck to the recipient. Forward this to 7 people who need luck in 4 days then you will get good luck. You may think this is a myth or a fake, but this is true. In the UK, a man called HGXWCH received this letter in 1930. And he asked his secretary to send a copy of this. A Few days later, he won 2 billion Korean Won in the lottery. Some man got this but forgot that this letter should be forwarded out of his hand within 96 hours. He was fired before long. After he sent the letter to 7 people, he could get a new good job again. John F. Kennedy, president of the U.S., got this letter but he just ignored it. Finally, 9 days later, he was assassinated. Remember! Forward this then you will get fortune for 7 years, or you 3 years of bad luck. Do not ignore. 7 people who will receive a copy of this will have good luck. All is well that ends well. Best wishes for 7 years…
It is said that this is the original version of the lucky letter. I remembered that there were many types of lucky letters spread like this, but these letters have a common composition and essentials. It wishes for happiness and fortune outwardly, but the content gives an unpleasant feeling. No one knows where this fake letter starts from, where it goes, and what it aims for. As you noticed, the simple idea of copy and paste is the key point of this kind of letter. And now, we can ‘share’ it without ‘copy and paste' the content - just one step. You know, we’re living in a world of sharing links. What a comfortable life! This simple function encourages others to spread a message or information, no matter if it is true or not, creating wider dispersion like a virus. If everybody followed the letter’s instructions, it would take only a few days to cover the entire world. Isn’t it so marvellous?
I’m writing this letter to spread some questions derived from my experiences. And I’ll send you a few more as soon as I write. Ah! I’m thinking of sending some images or video clips I’ve collected. I don’t want to make you exhausted by reading my letter, because it might be long...
2 The life of data (Data and/on Death)
In 2021, I was working for a non-profit organisation that helps people who died alone and have no family or friends. The organisation works with the Seoul city government and holds a joint funeral for them. If people have a right to live like human beings during their lives, shouldn't the ‘right to die with dignity’ also be natural? With this idea, the organisation aims to change society's perception of people who died lonely. It makes people’s last path not alone even though their lives were lonely.
My job was arranging and typing the data about people who passed away in an excel file. I had to look through every document related to their death - police reports, autopsy results from the doctor, and personal data from the district office. As I filled in the blanks of the table, I began to see this data as a social issue. Every single life should not be ignored or marginalised but should be protected by the nation. In that sense, I realised the meaning of performing a ritual ceremony for death and making a grave. It is not just a cultural custom to keep. I think it is a polite way of making them achieve dignified death and life after. So the grave is the place of remembering life and death, living and passing. This data related to individual life and death made me think about how the government sees the socially vulnerable members, and how our social fabric system is loose. Our society needs associativity to see and analyse the data with a different view.
Then, in the case of data, how could we deal with the issue of remembering the vanishment? Is there a ceremony or a monumental place for the data loss?
How does data maintain its life leaving long traces? Have you thought about the lifespan of data? I often encounter pop-ups that require data access from websites, which is very annoying. Once companies hold the user’s information for a certain period and then discard it after it expires - this is the principle. However, it is hard to believe companies’ promises regarding tracking and data protection. Normally, the Internet grows up on the cookie crumbs we've dropped unconsciously, and companies roll these crumbs to make customised services. They are building their advertising empire with these crumbs! If I allowed websites to access my information, it would spread to their partners so fast. And Imagine how quickly I would get an ad call from an insurance company or phone carrier. So I think the life of data is very tenacious. Even unused or deleted (strictly speaking, overwritten by 0s or random codes) data can be revived later on as needed. Then, isn’t there no such thing as complete death?
By the way, I heard about an interesting service that cares for personal data after death. As you know, personal data and photos keep following after one’s passed away unless someone deletes the accounts. This service allows the digital legacy to be managed by families, relatives, and close friends. Or they can request to delete the account to protect their digital identity. Not only the information of the living but also this of the deceased should be protected. Because the abandoned or rarely used profiles easily become prey for fraud. I would be so sad if I found an account of my dear departed friend or family stolen. Then, we might need digital wills for this while alive. (If you’re interested in this topic, read this blog post; https://adguard.com/en/blog/digital-afterlife-death-tech.html )
Oh, sorry that I kept talking about depressing topics. I will change the subject to ‘memory.’ I have thought we are increasingly relying on memories from digital devices. Sometimes I recall the memories with some photos on my mobile. And I use an auto-fill function on mobile, so I don't need to memorise my personal data all the time, for example, mobile numbers, account numbers, credit card numbers, IDs and passwords. I guess we’re becoming digital dementia. Besides, a lot of parts of our daily lives depend on digital memory, such as mobile application, dash cam, pet cam, thermal imaging camera (especially during the pandemic).
Do you think digital memory is a complete record? Data collected from digital devices have been regarded as objective and scientific. And these data gain reliability easily because people believe it even if they don’t know where this information comes and goes. The more critical thing is the way we treat and use this isn’t always objective. People easily fall into the trap of fake news and share this with their friends. Some loose-woven presumptions make solid political opinions. And some people believe in their feelings of fear rather than statistics.
Consider that the human body is made up of numerous cells and tissues, which form body organs. And what we see is adapted by our perception. The digital image, which is just a piece or pile of memory of a digital organism, consists of thousands of minute pixels, which is noise. Operation of the imaging processor inside the camera corrects these noises to be close to the image humans actually recognise. So the data does! With single data itself, it is hard to know the truth of events or the value of the data. I think the more important thing is focusing on how we analyse the data collection and what kind of questions can be drawn. As if I was convinced that every human has the right to die with dignity by the death data collection I mentioned earlier.
3 Are We Living a Green Life?
Happy new year!
Have you ever heard about the twelve zodiac signs in East Asia? It has a twelve-year cycle, and each year represents an animal sign. Furthermore, every two years has a five-colour cycle. The colour stands for the basic substances of five elements - wood(blue), fire (red), earth (yellow), metal (white), and water (black). These two cycles, the animal sign and colour, are interlocked to assign each year. 2022 was the black tiger’s year, and 2023 is the year of the black rabbit. With this combination of animal and colour, you can see your character and your fortune of the year! These days I can find a lot of banners and pop-ups that advertise 'telling your fortune' on the web. FYI, I was born in the year of the black monkey. You can guess what year I was born!
Today, I searched for some articles on a massive Saudi Arabian project. Because last November, the prince of Saudi visited South Korea to attend ‘Korea-Saudi Investment Forum 2022’. Through this forum, the two nations signed MOUs for economic cooperation across various industries - mainly the development of renewable energy and construction, including agriculture and service investment. Korean companies will cooperate with the project ‘Neom City’, a smart city promoted by Saudi. And the Korean government also announced that it will actively support it. (Here is the really cool website of Neom! https://www.neom.com/ )
With this cooperation, Saudi can realise its national vision to break away from its oil-centred economy - developing hydrogen locomotives and building railway networks, promoting plants producing green hydrogen and ammonia with high-tech construction methods. For more information about the forum, click this link; https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2022/11/113_339986.html
Therefore since the forum, many interviews and articles commenting on this have been out. The government is very much looking forward to this project and has a positive view of this project and cooperation, but the experts are not. Most of them doubt the practicality of the project plan and its benefits to our country. Maybe the prince regards this project as a prototype of migration to Mars. To be honest, it is expected that Saudi will produce and use 100 per cent of renewable energy instead of oil. The advocates of this project are drawing an optimistic future, however, can we be sure that its process is eco-friendly? Can oil usage and carbon emissions be restrained? Likewise, many companies, environmental organisations and individuals across the world are trying to make the earth greener, but the process isn’t that 'green'. We already have witnessed many companies' attempts to do so-called greenwashing on their brands focused more on advertising.
Every day, I feel that voice of green is whispering to us and pulling our minds and eyes into its illusion - be eco-friendly, be natural, be organic, be safe, be relaxed, etc. We might have lived and looked at the world through a green filter, which means we cannot tell which one has real green colour. Normally, the sign of danger appears in red, but how can we notice this colour with a green filter on us? Maybe we have to know that wearing the green filter is a real danger sign in itself. Don’t you think the colour green seems to have more than many concepts that symbolise it?
Green politics is also applied to digital ecology, especially for more efficient data processing. For example, the IMG processing mechanisms of the cameras have developed for higher image quality; de-noise, auto-focus, and auto-stabilisation. It only analyses and processes selective data, not every data, for faster and more powerful performance. Another example is ads blocking programs on the web. It’s hard for users to avoid tracking from websites. So, Google made ‘My Ad Centre’ in which users can manage ads showing on web pages. But this is tricky because they still use mechanisms of analysing personal information! Google changes people's perceptions by giving authority to set preferences. We are living somewhere between data protection and invasion.
When I imagine this green landscape, the powerful image from the night vision device which is originally used for military purposes, but now this technology is gradually permeating into daily life. For example, you can watch what your furry friends or kids are doing even in the dark and remote from you. And it can detect the obstacles around the vehicle during the night. Autonomous mode allows the drivers can be relaxed inside the vehicle. As such, this technic protects us from unexpected accidents, but at the same time, it also makes us feel anxious like we are under surveillance.
I want to show you a jarring landscape, which makes us sustain incomplete living without certainty, with the ambivalent 'green' concept.
Green does not refer to safety anymore but efficiency and optimisation.
And I want to ask you; are we really living a green life?