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A Computer Scientist Breaks Down Generative AI’s Hefty Carbon Footprint

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The following essay is reprinted with permission from The ConversationThe Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.

Generative AI is the hot new technology behind chatbots and image generators. But how hot is it making the planet?

As an AI researcher, I often worry about the energy costs of building artificial intelligence models. The more powerful the AI, the more energy it takes. What does the emergence of increasingly more powerful generative AI models mean for society’s future carbon footprint?

“Generative” refers to the ability of an AI algorithm to produce complex data. The alternative is “discriminative” AI, which chooses between a fixed number of options and produces just a single number. An example of a discriminative output is choosing whether to approve a loan application.

Generative AI can create much more complex outputs, such as a sentence, a paragraph, an image or even a short video. It has long been used in applications like smart speakers to generate audio responses, or in autocomplete to suggest a search query. However, it only recently…



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