How much energy does it take to keep the Internet running?

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The Internet has become an essential part of our lives, a least in the developed world. Not only is a gateway to the collective knowledge of the entire human race, it gives us access to an infinite amount of entertainment and allows us to communicate with people from anywhere in the world, but at what cost? Rarely do we consider what it takes to actually maintain the Internet, but the folks at SciShow are here to tell us, at least in terms of energy. 

Are you sitting comfortably? Good, because you’re about to get a good old-fashioned dose of guilt. The folks at SciShow have put together a video examining how much energy we waste on running the internet, and yup, the number is embarrassingly large. As the video explains, loading videos of people falling off rooftops (and, y’know, running the stock market) takes servers — which use a lot of energy, some 91 billion kilowatt-hours in the U.S. alone. And worst of all, a bunch of those servers are just sitting there, unused, waiting for a data request to come in. Cooling those servers — being used or otherwise — is hugely energy inefficient. SciShow’s video is a good primer on the topic, but if you want a more in-depth explainer on data centers (and their shocking inefficiency — running servers only accounts for 11% or so of the actual power usage), Dan Luu has a more in-depth look at the topic. Just be ready to feel an overwhelming sense of moral inferiority every time you log onto Reddit from now on.

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