Every day there is new news about artificial intelligence, or some new function or, at the very least, some new platform or software related to it. We are amazed by all the good things it allows us to do and scared by all the bad things that, they say, it will eventually be able to do…
…however, artificial intelligence is already doing potentially negative things that we don’t pay much attention to. In the same way that the popularity of cryptocurrencies hid/minimized their disproportionate energy impact for some time, There is hardly any mention that AI, like ‘natural intelligences’, consumes water.
ChatGPTmania and drought in Des Moines
However, recent information regarding ChatGPT, the most popular AI model of the moment, has allowed us to begin to raise this problem: Microsoft is consuming an impressive amount of water to cool the data centers where ChatGPT runslocated in Iowa, a US state whose water supply is already affected due to drought.
Not that the existence of these data centers was any secret. In the first months of ChatGPT’s life, a Microsoft official said publicly that the chatbot had been created “literally next to the cornfields west of Des Moines.” What was not talked about is that, like corn, ChatGPT also needed to be ‘watered’.
But now, a group of researchers has begun to quantify the extent of the problem.
According to a study conducted by Shaolei Ren, a researcher at the University of California, ChatGPT consumes approximately one liter of water for every 10-100 queries it answers. The broadness of that spectrum is due to several variables, among which the climate stands out: Iowa summers are not ideal in terms of efficient cooling.
The estimate made by the researchers includes indirect water use that companies do not always measure, such as to cool power plants that supply electricity to data centers.
“Most people are not aware of the underlying resource usage of ChatGPT. If we are not aware of the resource usage, then there is no way we can help preserve it.”
On the other hand, as Microsoft itself revealed in its latest environmental report, Its global water consumption increased by 34% between 2021 and 2022 (To give us an idea of the volume of water that this represents, we are talking about adding 2,500 Olympic swimming pools). That increase, much greater than that experienced in previous years, is seen by Ren as a consequence of “his strong investment in generative AI and his partnership with OpenAI.”
In July of last year, a month before OpenAI says it completed GPT-4 training, Microsoft pumped nearly 44,000 liters of water into its Iowa data centers: 6% of all water used in the district. Let us remember that, at that time, users were not yet connecting from all over the world to ask questions to the chatbot.
But let’s not think for a moment that this problem is just a matter of OpenAI and its partner Microsoft: Google has also reported a 20% increase in water use in the same periodwhich Ren also largely attributes to his work with artificial intelligence.
Via | Associated Press
Image | Marcos Merino through AI
In Genbeta | Deleting chats in ChatGPT will not help you have more privacy. This option will