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AI is alleged to make us more efficient – ​​nevertheless it could cause us to waste more energy

The European Union is negotiating a man-made intelligence law, the world's first comprehensive law aimed toward regulating artificial intelligence (AI) based on the chance it poses to individuals, society and the environment.

However, discussions about AI ignore a big environmental risk: a possible increase in energy consumption from the usage of AI in on a regular basis activities. Without acknowledging this risk, the event of AI could contribute to the climate emergency.

AI is usually a double-edged sword. It is usually a powerful instrument for climate protection, improving the efficiency of the energy network, modeling climate change predictions or monitoring climate contracts. But the infrastructure needed to run AI is there energy and resource intensive. “Training” a big language model like OpenAI’s GPT-3, a well-liked AI-powered chatbot, requires numerous electricity to power data centers which can be then needed much water cooling down.

In fact, the true extent of AI's impact on the environment is probably going underestimated, especially if we only concentrate on the direct carbon footprint of its infrastructure. AI now permeates just about all points of our digitalized on a regular basis life. Companies are using AI to develop, market and deliver products, content and services more efficiently, and AI is influencing how we search, shop, socialize and organize our on a regular basis lives.

These changes have an enormous impact on our overall energy consumption and we must actively reduce it. And it's not yet clear whether AI will help us make more climate-positive decisions.

How AI is changing us

AI can change our energy consumption not directly by changing our activities and behavior – for instance, by completing tasks more efficiently or by replacing analog tools equivalent to physical maps with their digital equivalents. However, it could possibly also backfire if convenience and lower costs simply stimulate demand for more goods or services. This is generally known as “Rebound effectAnd if the rebound effect is larger than the energy savings, this results in higher energy consumption overall. Whether AI results in roughly energy consumption is determined by how we adapt to its use.

For example, AI-powered smart home systems can improve energy efficiency by controlling heating and appliances. It is estimated that a wise heating system reduces gas consumption by about 5%. Energy management and residential automation could even reduce household CO₂ consumption as much as 40%.

However, a more efficient and cozy heated home may encourage people to remain home more often with the heating on. People may additionally have increased comfort expectations of a hotter home and pre-warming of rooms. A study about Smart Homes found that folks buy and use additional smart devices to extend control and convenience quite than use less energy.

What if energy efficient heating just means we get used to extra heat?
Sergey Malkov / Shutterstock

In the transportation sector, ride-hailing apps that use AI to optimize routes can reduce travel time, distance and congestion. Yet they’re displacing more sustainable public transport and increasing travel demand consequently 69% more climate pollution.

The more advanced AI becomes within the transportation sector, the more the effect can increase. The convenience of an autonomous vehicle can increase people's ability to travel and, within the worst case, result in twice as much energy is used as for transport.

In retail, AI-powered promoting and search functions, personalized recommendations or virtual personal assistants could encourage overconsumption quite than sustainable shopping.

Rebound effects may also occur over time and across sectors. Research predicts that AI could prevail We spend over 40% of our time doing household chores inside the following ten years. This idle time is now available for other activities that could be more energy intensive, equivalent to additional travel.

How AI influences climate protection

On a bigger scale, AI can even have systemic impacts that threaten climate protection. We recognize the chance of AI exacerbating misinformation, bias and discrimination, and inequalities. These risks could have knock-on effects on our ability to take motion on climate change. People's trust, freedom of alternative and political engagement could diminish undermine their desire to cut back emissions and adapt to climate change.

As we grapple with the potential risks of AI, we’d like to expand our understanding of the way it affects our behavior and the environment. Scientists have called for more work to enhance and standardize Accounting methods for reporting CO2 emissions of AI models. Others have suggested best practice solutions to cut back energy and carbon emissions machine learning.

These efforts to deal with the direct carbon footprint of AI infrastructure are vital, but not sufficient. When considering the actual environmental impact of AI, its indirect effects on on a regular basis life shouldn’t be ignored.

As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, its developers might want to think more about human behavior and avoid unintended consequences of AI-driven efficiency savings. At some point they should in some way integrate this into the design of the AI ​​itself in order that a world where humans depend on AI isn’t a world that unnecessarily uses additional energy.

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