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Generative AI Seen Having Big Impacts on Environment – Nature

Revelations about the amount of power and water needed for computers that power artificial intelligence have led to concern about AI’s environmental impacts

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said at Davos there is no way the AI sector will have enough power in the future unless we get an energy "breakthrough" (Reuters image from May 2023).


OpenAI chief Sam Altman’s admission at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month that global energy systems will struggle to cope with the demand from the next wave of generative AI systems has spurred concern about the environmental impacts of the new technology, according to a report published in Nature, which said that ChatGPT is already consuming the energy of about 33,000 homes and that “large AI systems are likely to need as much energy as entire nations” in a few years.

Generative AI systems, and giant data centres, also need huge amounts of fresh water to cool their processors and generate electricity, it said, adding that on February 1, US Democrats led by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey introduced the Artificial Intelligence Environmental Impacts Act of 2024 in a bid to force the National Institute for Standards and Technology to collaborate with academia, industry and civil society to establish standards for assessing AI’s environmental impact, and to create a voluntary reporting framework for AI developers and operators.

Read the full report: Nature.




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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