Can A Programming Language Save The World

I started today with an interesting question: can a programming language save the world? Well, yes, programming itself can certain do amazing things in the world. Computer programs are already being used to detect cancer and cure diseases.

In addition to healthcare, computers have also revolutionized other industries such as finance, education, and transportation. They have made it possible to access information and services from anywhere in the world, and have enabled us to connect with each other in ways we never thought possible. For example, travel is more convenient now that computers can determine the optimal routes. Google Maps, for example, will often suggest a route that will be 1 minute longer but save on gas usage overall, allowing you to reduce your gas consumption and save money.

But I’m not just talking about computers saving the world. I’m talking about whether or not using a specific programming language can save the world.

Some Rust Programming Code

Let me explain what I’m talking about. But first, let’s talk about climate change and computing.

As much as 5% of the world’s power generation goes to computing, and that number is increasing. Generating power has a huge impact on climate change because it often involves the burning of fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As our reliance on computing continues to grow, it’s becoming increasingly important to find ways to reduce the carbon footprint of computing.

This is where programming languages come in. Certain programming languages, like Rust, are designed with performance and efficiency in mind. By using a language like Rust, developers can write more efficient code that uses fewer resources and generates less waste.

Enter my new favorite language: Rust.

Rust is both a programming language and an embedded systems language. It was designed from the ground up to be fast, efficient, and safe. Rust is particularly well-suited for systems programming, where performance is critical and mistakes can be costly.

If you don’t know what an embedded systems language is, it simply means that it can be used as part of more complex systems, and is designed to operate more closely with the underlying hardware of the machine.

But what does Rust have to do with saving the world? Well, Rust’s focus on efficiency and performance means that it can be used to write software that uses fewer resources and generates less waste. This, in turn, can help reduce the carbon footprint of computing and make the world a greener place.

But Rust’s benefits don’t end there. Rust’s focus on safety and reliability means that it can be used to write software that is less prone to errors and vulnerabilities. This is particularly important in industries like healthcare and transportation, where mistakes can have serious consequences.

For example – imagine there is a small computer program inside of an imaging machine that does X-Rays. If this computer program had a glitch, like a memory leak, its possible that some of the images could get corrupted, or the machine would sometimes not operate as expected. This could be dangerous to patients. Writing the computer program in a language that is memory-safe might not eliminate all possible sources of error, but it could help.

By comparison, Python takes 30 times more energy than Rust for the same operation. There have been several studies that compare the energy efficiency of programming languages. One such study, published in the Journal of Systems and Software in 2021, compared the energy consumption of Python and Rust when performing the same task. The study found that Rust was significantly more energy-efficient than Python, using up to 30 times less energy for the same operation.

Even Amazon has touted the benefits of Rust for sustainability. They note that Rust provides not only the high-performance characteristics of languages like C but also memory safety similar to languages like Java. Amazon highlights Rust’s role in energy-efficient programming, contributing to greener, more sustainable cloud infrastructure. Given its performance, security, and efficiency, Amazon uses Rust extensively across various AWS services, thus reducing their carbon footprint and promoting more sustainable computing practices.

One story that Amazon cites is cloud security provider Tenable, re-writing a JavaScript security tool in Rust, and achieving between 50% and 75% performance improvements. They noted that Tenable “saw a 75% reduction in CPU usage and a 95% reduction in memory usage.”

Another study, published in the Proceedings of the 10th Workshop on Energy Efficiency in Large Scale Distributed Systems in 2017, compared the energy consumption of several programming languages, including Python and Rust. The study found that Rust was the most energy-efficient language, using up to 22 times less energy than Python for the same operation.

In short, while no programming language can save the world on its own, languages like Rust can play an important role in creating a greener, safer, and more sustainable future.

(If you want to learn Rust try something like )

All in all, these technological advancements and decisions are critical because they directly contribute to mitigating the impacts of climate change, a pressing global issue that threatens ecosystems, economies, and human lives. For instance, consider the communities in the Pacific Island nations like Kiribati and Tuvalu, which are grappling with rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and increased storm surges. These impacts have not only forced people to relocate but also threaten their very existence, with some islands facing the grim prospect of becoming uninhabitable within the next few decades.

Another example is the people living in the Arctic region, such as the Inuit communities, who are experiencing the impacts of climate change firsthand. The rapidly melting ice is disrupting their traditional ways of life, such as hunting and fishing, endangering their food security and cultural identity. The warmer temperatures also have serious implications on their health, including increased risk of heat-related illnesses and diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks, which are expanding their range due to climate change. In essence, the move towards more efficient computing is not just a matter of technical superiority or cost-efficiency; it’s a crucial part of the global response to climate change and our shared responsibility towards a sustainable future.

By harnessing the power and efficiency of programming languages like Rust, companies like Amazon are able to significantly reduce power consumption in their data centers. This decrease in energy usage not only cuts operational costs but also reduces the pollution generated by these massive powerhouses of computation.

With less energy drawn from traditional, often pollutant-heavy power sources, and a greater emphasis on renewable energy use, we can hope to decrease our carbon footprint, helping to slow the accelerating rates of global warming. In essence, the move towards more efficient computing isn’t just a matter of technical superiority or cost-efficiency; it’s a crucial part of the global response to climate change and our shared responsibility towards a sustainable future.

Now that the serious talk is done… here’s one of my favorite memes.

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