If data centers are the foundation of our digital world, their increasing spread poses a major environmental challenge amid concerns about the carbon footprint of the technological sector. Will the solution come from artificial intelligence ?
The challenge is enormous, as it is expected that by 2025 this sector will consume 20% of the electricity generated in the world and emit 5.5% of total carbon emissions.
With more uses and applications that consume more and more electricity, the pace may accelerate even more.
Aaron Iyengar, president of Anthere AI, a company that specializes in making electronic chips and seeks to develop semiconductors for artificial intelligence that consume less energy, acknowledged, “We have opened Pandora’s box.”
“We can use artificial intelligence in a manner commensurate with the requirements of the climate, or we can ignore these requirements and face the consequences,” he said.
However, the adaptation of servers must take place now, at a time when they are being modified to suit the needs of artificial intelligence, in what an official in the Google Group described as “a turning point that we do not witness except once in a generation in the world of informatics.”
Race for energy efficiency
Tools for generative AI such as GPT4 for its chatbot GBT, and Google Group’s Palm 2 for its cool bot are being developed in two phases: “training” and “deployment”, both of which are Energy consumer.
And researchers from the University of Massachusetts who trained these tools discovered in 2019 that training one of these models emits emissions equivalent to those of five cars during its entire life cycle.
A joint study by Google and the University of Berkeley recently concluded that training the obstetric robot “GBT3” caused carbon emissions of 552 tons, which is equivalent to the emissions of a car traveling two million kilometers.
As for its successor, “GPT4”, it was trained on a number of settings that exceed the previous version by 570 times, and this number will increase with the development of artificial intelligence and the increase in its spread and capabilities.
This development made possible microprocessors produced by the electronic chip giant Nvidia, known as “Graphics Processing Units” (GPU). Although these processors are superior to regular electronic chips in terms of energy efficiency, they consume large amounts of energy.
After the training is completed, putting generative AI tools into service via the cloud requires energy through consumption associated with the demands on the data received, which requires a much larger amount of energy than the previous stage.
However, companies may choose more environmentally friendly solutions since cloud servers do not require super-powerful processors.
Amazon Web Service, Microsoft and Google, major cloud computing companies, confirm that they are committed to the highest possible energy efficiency.
Amazon Web Services even pledged to become carbon neutral by 2040, while Microsoft committed to being a “zero waste company” by 2030.
Initial elements indicate that these groups are determined to achieve their goals. Between 2010 and 2018, the energy consumption of data centers around the world increased by only 6%, while their use increased by 550%, according to figures from the International Energy Agency.
On the other hand, the major artificial intelligence companies confirm that the carbon footprints of this modern sector are not at stake, but rather that the controversy over it obscures its ability to bring about a real revolution.
Sam Altman, founder of OpenAI, the developer of ChatGBT, said, “Addressing the problem of climate change will not be difficult after we have super-powerful artificial intelligence.”
“This shows how big our dreams have to be… Imagine a system where you could ask him to tell me how to produce a large amount of clean energy cheaply, how to capture carbon effectively and how to build a plant capable of doing that globally,” he added.
For his part, NVIDIA President Jensen Huang said that the widespread use of artificial intelligence and the operations that it can perform at high speed will reduce the demand for cloud services, which will reduce the consumption of this sector.
Thanks to artificial intelligence, laptops, mobile phones, and cars can become energy-efficient supercomputers that don’t need to use data from the cloud.
“In the future, you will have a high-resolution processor in your phone, and 90% of the pixels will be generated, instead of 100% now, and only 10% of them will be withdrawn, which means that your consumption will decrease,” Huang told reporters.
But some experts believe, on the contrary, that the race to develop artificial intelligence diverts attention from risks to the environment.
“Large groups are currently spending huge amounts of money to deploy AI,” said Aaron Iyengar. I don’t think she’s worried at the current stage about the environmental impact, but I think that will happen later.”
Paris : France is working on a draft law to ban electronic cigarettes
French Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne said that the government is currently working on issuing a draft law banning the use of single-use electronic cigarettes, while the authorities seek to combat smoking among young people.
Bloomberg News reported on Sunday that while Bourne ruled out imposing new tax increases on cigarettes in 2024, she said that her administration plans to take strict measures against smoking, a habit that she said has risen again in France, noting that it leads to death. 75 thousand people every year.
The French Prime Minister said in an interview with RTL radio that was broadcast on Sunday: “We will soon present a new national plan against smoking, which would specifically ban single-use e-cigarettes, which introduce bad habits to young people.”
On the other hand, other countries are considering banning vaping products.
The US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the sale of tobacco products and e-cigarettes, said it was taking action to combat the rise of flavored and disposable e-cigarettes.