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This underappreciated asset of AI is a blessing for the climate

© Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

Many experts rightly point out the negative impact of new generative AI on carbon emissions and climate change. We know that these tools are extremely energy intensive and pose a real concern for sustainability if they are used on a large scale.

Very surprising numbers

A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports approached this problem differently. The authors thus looked at services such as ChatGPT, Bloom AI, DALL-E2 and compared their CO2 emissions with those produced by humans performing the same tasks.

Researchers have found that these AIs emit “between 130 and 1 500 times less CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per page of text generated than human editors and illustration systems emit between 310 and 2  900 times less CO2e per image than humans”.

Andrew Torrance, one of the University of Kansas scientists involved in this research, confides his surprise:

I like to think that I am driven by data, not just what I think is true. We've had discussions about something that seems true in terms of AI emissions, but we wanted to take a concrete look. When we did, the results were astonishing. Even by conservative estimates, AI is extremely less emitting.

Very optimistic, the latter continues:

It's not a curse, it's a bargain. I think it will help to make good writers great writers, mediocre writers good writers and to democratize writing. It can make people more productive and enhance human potential. I am extremely optimistic that technology is improving in many ways and reducing the effects we have on the Earth. We hope this is just the beginning and that people will continue to explore this issue further.

Humans must remain in control

The authors, however, wish to qualify these results. They explain that carbon emissions are not the only factor to take into account when it comes to AI. Thus, AI can generate massive job losses and destabilize our societies.

It can also infringe copyright and raises legal questions. According to them, it is therefore appropriate to consider a collaboration between man and machines which makes it possible to improve productivity, while letting users maintain control over production.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116