Jun 7Liked by Lloyd Alter

I will agree with you on this - TA-DA! - I use Perplexity as well. Not that it is the best but I find that it hallucinates the least (eg, returns a lesser number of made-up answers) - I would counsel people to double-check answers, on some basis of your own, returned from your queries.

I'm going to disagree with the final premise of this post. In the avenue of power consumption, I will quote the unknown wag: "You ain't seen nothin' yet!". You are correct in that part of the tech race is to make the millions (billions??) of GPUs and NPUs more efficient, and the machine learning processes MAY get more efficient, utterly MASSIVE data centers to hold incomprehensible yottabytes necessary for that data's organization and subsequent queries against it.

I forecast, from my retired seat in the IT sidelines, that the number of planned and built data centers will continue to ramp up, for a while, exponentially. And each one will be bigger than the previous ones by all of the major players in this field.

After all, a thumbdrive isn't going to hold all the data necessary to train all these task specific and generalized models...

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Interesting comments on Perplexity – that's something I look forward to trying.

Given how often I agree with almost everything you write, it’s unusual that I find something to object to in nearly every paragraph of this post. Here’s a few …. First, I find the emphasis on the low operating energy consumption of phones and average computers to be nearly pointless. So much of the energy use occurs in the transmission/cloud, and equally if not more significant, in the production of the frequently-replaced equipment. While the electricity used to power a phone in some cases is provided through relatively clean generation, the mining, manufacturing and long-distance shipping will be much harder and take longer to decarbonize.

Second, from what I read, the energy demands of the cloud have been going up rapidly for years. Perhaps these sources are wrong, but here's one such reference:

“Amid explosive demand, America is running out of power – AI and the boom in clean-tech manufacturing are pushing America’s power grid to the brink. Utilities can’t keep up.”


For example, the article says “A major factor behind the skyrocketing demand [for electricity] is the rapid innovation in artificial intelligence, which is driving the construction of large warehouses of computing infrastructure that require exponentially more power than traditional data centers. AI is also part of a huge scale-up of cloud computing.”

Re AI chips, you write “those AI chips are going to get more efficient by the day and they run on electricity, which gets cleaner every day.” But we have a great example of Jevon’s Paradox – while individual AI chips get more efficient, the overall energy consumption skyrockets. AI farms may buy renewable energy, but in many places that simply means there’s not enough clean electricity left to run heat pumps or electric vehicles.

You make a good point that aviation is primarily a global elite service, internet usage is far more widespread. True, but: I suspect access to and use of multiple streaming services is heavily slanted to the world’s wealthier residents; ownership and frequent replacement of multiple devices (phone, tablet, laptop, watch, large-screen TVs) also reflects global inequality. I would expect that responsibility for internet-related carbon emissions is heavily weighted to the rich world, even if that weighting is not quite so extreme as in aviation.

I certainly agree that internet usage CAN BE less environmentally impactful than many other standard activities in western society. If we are mindful about what we buy and how we use it, the benefits of internet usage might even outweigh the harms. But the whole internet industrial complex pushes toward greater consumption of nearly everything. So, taken as a societal whole, I would say our internet habits ARE killing the planet.

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"it’s unusual that I find something to object to in nearly every paragraph of this post." sorry about that. but again I point to the International Energy Agency about power consumption, https://www.iea.org/energy-system/buildings/data-centres-and-data-transmission-networks who do say we have to cut their emissions in half to meet 2030 targets. But I agree with your point about responsibility skewing to the rich world; as the Borgen Project notes, most of the world connects through phones.

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"we have to cut their emissions in half to meet 2030 targets".

So how are you going to cut everyone's emissions by 50% in 6 years, Lloyd?

Life is nothing less than inequality and no attempt to equalize Life ato achieve that all are at the same level is doomed to failure. People are not "tools" or "cogs in a greater social machine" in which one is just like another. Neither are they "groups" (context: CRT) to be manipulated for one's political machinations.

Doomed, unless one is willing to demand and advocate for the "Lowest Common Denominator" of Life for all...

...which is always a failure as there will always be those, regardless of which system is used to administer it, that will have the Power (and its commiserate matching lifestyle). Thus, proving, once again, there is no such thing as "Equity for All" because that disregards human nature altogether.

It is good to be the Nomenklatura in any such a system because after Eating the Rich, they become the New Rich. And there will ALWAYS the Rich.

That is what History teaches.

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I think another thing that we need to think about in these calculations is the gains we have from making things more efficient users of electricity. About a decade ago, I bought power strips that would power down electronics based upon others (i.e. My roku would only get power if I switched on my TV, my printer only got power if my computer was on, etc), and while these were pricey they paid for themselves in a few months but saving money on my electric bill. These days, I don't have anything that draws enough power to get these things to work.

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It really is all fossil fuel emissions. Personal approaches bring folks to an understanding of climate change/CO2 increases but IMO are an understandable diversion. Voting remains the best solution, cause we are in an energy war, esp. in the US, the world's largest ff producing country. There may be some tech solutions coming with gas, but only if, again IMO, we reach Howard Beale's "I'm mad and I can't take it anymore!" climate moment, or for a newer generation, Ministry of the Future frustrations. All land-based solutions may mean little, sadly. Sober/cynical thoughts?

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We disagree on AI. Mass use of the tech is unsustainable on its face. I support restricting it to critical research and applications.

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Too late - Pandora's box is already open, the genie is grinning, and hapless legislators cannot keep up with the speed of development.

>> Mass use of the tech is unsustainable on its face

So, when will you be removing yourself from the 'Net? After all, all of us here are part of the Masses, right?

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Position noted. I'll continue to voice my valid concerns about AI sustainability.

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I'm all for free speech - speak on!

That said, then, what is your remedy for removing "the Masses" from such technology in support of your views? What is your plan for making that happen?

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Great question. I've been grappling with it while drafting an upcoming post (Working title "No One Voted for AI"). My main thinking is that draconian "removal" isn't likely to get much support. Yet voluntary measures, like revoking the social license for casual use as with private jets, don't seem like an appropriate response to the scale of the problem. Legal measures might have a role, like extended producer responsibility laws for chipmakers.

If assigned the task, how would you restrict AI use to critical research and applications?

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"No One Voted for AI"

No one "voted" for a lot of inventions and discoveries. Is this supposed to be the new normal? That only by a collective vote will allow something to be available? Planes, cars, ships, trains, medications, communications beyond smoke signals, horns (I'm in an Alp-ish mood), and whistles. Basically any advanced modernity would be subject "to the Masses" even as you are will to remove things from them at the same time?

I see a massive contradiction at play and how would that be monitored, patrolled, and enforced? Frankly, I'm not seeing much viability in that solution, that people have to vote something into existence, and certainly the converse solution in denying the existence of things "not" voted upon is rather ugly (a police state).

So I ask again - what is your methodology for "collective votes" on thousands, if not millions, of new things and ideas that are created each and every day?

And do you have a different way of policing that beyond what I posited?

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"If assigned the task, how would you restrict AI use to critical research and applications?"

I wouldn't - neither I OR you have the expertise to deny this sort of thing to others; we cannot know all the data points to be able to make that large of a decision for others. Besides, you are making a claim that has yet to be proven true.

And I do make use of AI for what I do - who the heck are you to deny that to me because I'm merely a member of the Masses?

Continuing on: "Social license" rates right up there with "social contract" or "social construct" - totally meaningless from a legal perspective and each of those are used only to shut down discussions from a sense of moral superiority over those that disagree with me.

And like what I see oft by those on the Left, you're not above using the Force of Government against others ("legal measures"). Again, I think you've already answered your own question with "isn't likely to get much support".

Which leaves virtue-signaling. Now, go watch this. I know Dinesh D'souza having met and talked with him on several occasions. While the context is different (another useless phrase, "social justice"), the underlying philosophy mirrors what you are trying to do here. To save you some time, although I suggest watching the whole video for its gestalt, start at 9:06 to get the main impact:


"...I'm talking about you acting out your virtue on YOU...". In this, you are arguing along the lines of Nelson666 of the old TH years where he advocated for the killing of billions of others for "sustainability" but refused to do himself what he wanted done to others.

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Jun 8Liked by Lloyd Alter

Dinesh D'souza 😂😂😂😂😂

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Oh Grok, this was your big chance to answer in good faith, as I did with you.

But you didn't, so we're done here.

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