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Cutting the environmental cost of cutting-edge technologies like AI and Bitcoin

Cutting the environmental cost of cutting-edge technologies like AI and Bitcoin

As both artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency gain traction in several aspects of our lives, their escalating energy demands have become a critical issue. Like all technologies that improve our quality of life at the cost of using resources, generative AI and cryptocurrencies—Bitcoin (BTC) in particular—have already produced tremendous value while consuming tremendous amounts of energy.

This does not mean, however, that we halt them altogether. It simply means that it’s vital to continuously asses their energy consumption to ensure that the utilization of these innovative tools does not lead to unsustainable power usage. In other words, we can enjoy the benefits of revolutionary tech, but only as long as we don’t wreck our homeworld in the process.

AI’s Energy Consumption, Especially ChatGPT

AI’s energy consumption, particularly for cutting-edge models like OpenAI‘s ChatGPT, has seen a dramatic surge. This increase is not confined to the energy-intensive training phase but extends to the operational phase, where machine learning algorithms are deployed. For example, Hugging Face’s multilingual text-generation AI consumed about 433 megawatt-hours (MWh) just in its training phase, which is sufficient to power 40 average U.S. homes for a year. The ongoing energy demand by AI tools, encompassing both the training and operational phases, already rivals that of small countries, signaling a trend that is just beginning.

These figures underscore the substantial energy footprint of AI technologies, particularly as they become increasingly central in various applications, from healthcare to finance. The growing capabilities and applications of AI have sparked debates about its potential drawbacks, including the risk of increased energy use contributing to climate change. The significant energy requirements for running AI algorithms and machine learning processes pose a challenge in maintaining environmental sustainability. However, it seems very unlikely that further development of the technology will slow down anytime soon.

Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption

Bitcoin’s energy consumption presents a different but equally critical challenge. The Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index reveals a striking annual carbon footprint of 76.79 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2Eq), comparable to the carbon emissions of countries like Oman. Its electrical energy consumption stands at 137.68 TWh, almost matching the power consumption of New…

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