15 April 2021
In “Energetics of Big Data,” we will discuss big data as energy. Data centers are energy gobblers that consume anywhere between 1% to 5% of the world’s electricity, depending on how you run the estimate. While historians have known that the carving of woodblocks, mass printing, and climate-controlled archives consume energy, we do not usually associate our research activity with energy use. The personal computers researchers use need relatively little electricity and can be powered with a solar panel the size of a backpack. To boot hundreds of thousands of servers in a data center, however, historians require megawatts of electricity. What are we to make of this?