Technology’s responsibility to a greener future

The demand for faster, smarter and more innovative tech has led to new generations of iPhones being released every. single. year.; wearable tech like watches and wristbands that monitor your health in real-time; and cloud-based file sharing and video platforms that enable seamless connection and productivity for remote work during a global pandemic.

Technology is also being driven by a societal need to solve some of the world’s biggest problems like tackling climate change, developing sustainable energy solutions, supporting electric vehicles, and finding cleaner sources of fuel to power transit, buildings and our devices. 

On the flip side, tech is also being weaponized to target critical infrastructure through sophisticated cyber attacks; create algorithms on social platforms with the intention to divide us; and used to threaten our democracy with misinformation, doctored images and deep-fake videos. And let’s not even talk about Skynet and the machines that will one day be our new overlords. 

To paraphrase Uncle Ben and Aunt May: with great technology comes great responsibility.

So, where does the responsibility lie when it comes to technology and the greater good? Is it with the inventors, researchers and investors? Or is it with us? 

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“To be honest, I think 2021 was actually a pretty ugly year in the world of technology,” says Amber Mac, an internationally-recognized leader in innovation and technology. “If we look at some of the big tech companies of today, I think many leaders in the sector lack the vision or commitment to put things like climate front and centre. I want to see more technology companies and leaders focus on helping people and helping a larger population of people. It can’t always be about profit, we have to shift our focus to purpose.”

Mac started her career in San Francisco and Boston during the dot-com boom. She left the start-up world to join Microsoft to build one of the first female-focused lifestyle portals. In addition to being a best-selling author, award-winning podcaster, sought-after keynote speaker, she is also an accomplished entrepreneur that started her own digital agency in 2006.

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In just the last couple of decades, technology has evolved at an increasingly accelerated pace. Our ability to turn our wildest dreams into reality (3D printers, anyone?) shows that we have the resources available to achieve technological advancements unlike any other time in human history.

“We have so many problems in our world today that need solving,” says Mac. “That’s why there has to be a focus on technology for the future that includes climate in the equation. That is the technology of the future we need.”

Sustainable technology is something Mac is committed to focusing on in the years ahead noting the incredible innovations taking place in this space including net-zero homes and renewable home generation.

“We have an affordability crisis when it comes to homes in this country, and something I want to avoid as someone who covers this sector is to push for solutions that aren’t equitable,” says Mac. “I want energy sustainability to be affordable for every Canadian so they can buy sustainable tech for their home. That could be in the form of government rebates or companies developing tech that isn’t as expensive as we’re seeing today.” 

That equity from a technology and energy perspective is important to Mac as Canada looks to be net zero by 2050. How ordinary Canadians can contribute to achieving this goal is an important part of the equation that is missing for Mac. 

“As Canadians, we all have questions around the 2050 target, like, should I be eating less meat? Does this mean I should no longer drive a gas-powered vehicle? Should I think about heat pumps in my home? At an individual level, many people are unsure about how they can be partners in the net zero goal. I think businesses are starting to get up to speed in terms of their responsibility, but Canadians need to know how they can help. Maybe the deadline can be even sooner.”

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Every year in the tech sector, there are a number of reports and lists about the year’s most compelling technology. Asked what innovations in the energy sector or by society-at-large with respect to energy usage have been the most impactful, Mac’s answer is surprising: heat pumps.

Air-source heat pumps use long-proven technology to absorb heat from the outside air – even in cold temperatures – and move it inside the home to provide heat. The process also works in reverse when interior cooling is needed so there’s no need to install a separate air conditioning unit.

“We have a home on Prince Edward Island, and believe it or not, everybody on PEI is talking about heat pumps. It seems like a weird conversation, but they understand they are energy efficient and there are great rebates from the government to make it affordable. I’m not hearing these same conversations in other places like where I live in Ontario. But when it comes to the future of the climate, I think having more of these conversations and more incentives to change our habits is critical.”

Homeowners can receive up to $5,000 for the installation of a heat pump through the Canada Greener Homes Grant and are also eligible for financing through the City of Ottawa’s Better Homes Loan Program. Read more about heat pumps on our blog here

Curious to learn more about the future of technology, EV adoption, AI and what Canadian tech companies Amber says are changing the world? Listen to our full in-depth interview with Amber Mac on the ThinkEnergy podcast here.

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