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AI, technology Regulations required for impact on the environment

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Concerns about the environmental impact of advanced technologies such as AI have led to a growing debate about whether computing-intensive applications and the chips that power them need to be regulated.

This is due to experts speaking at the “Technology Advances for Sustainable Planets” conference hosted by the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence and the Stanford Woods Institute for Environmental Studies.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing use energy that produces carbon emissions. At the same time, many of these technologies also help businesses reach their sustainability goals. In short, companies need to balance the rapid adoption and expansion of new technologies with understanding how those technologies affect the company’s overall environmental impact.

Peter Henderson, a PhD student in computer science at Stanford University, says the environmental impact depends on size. This is especially true for technologies such as artificial intelligence. During a conference panel session.. Enterprises often optimize AI algorithms to address energy use and carbon emission concerns before deploying machine learning models.

The important thing is not to scale to environmentally harmful points when the goal of many machine learning tasks is AI for social gain.

Peter henderson Stanford University PhD student

“The important thing is not to extend to environmentally harmful levels. If the goal of many machine learning tasks is AI for social benefit, we want to build something more sustainable. Battery , Optimize the energy grid. ” “But if all that optimization has a negative impact rather than a positive one, it’s not worth the effort.”

Henderson said there is likely to be a need for government efforts to provide rules regarding the use of AI beyond corporate measures to optimize these technologies. Some efforts to regulate AI are already underway in the European Union, but they have not fully addressed the environmental impact of technology.

Target the impact of AI on the environment

According to Henderson, EU AI regulations are aimed at consumer protection, not environmental protection.

He added that an important part of the environmental impact of AI comes from the GPUs that power AI and machine learning models. He said regulations need to cover the chips and other technologies that underlie the use of AI to address concerns about environmental impact.

“Here in California, there was a recent regulation [that says] Some GPUs are not allowed to sell here because they are not efficient enough. This could be a way to drive innovation and force more efficient chipsets. “

There are incentives (such as low cost) for companies to use more efficient chips, but Henderson said it is an area that needs to be considered from a regulatory perspective.

He added that the lack of data on the environmental impact of technologies such as AI, cloud computing, and Bitcoin makes effective regulation difficult.

“Step 1 is to make sure we have enough reports and enough data to make the right regulatory and policy decisions,” he said.

Salesforce executives talk about sustainability

Cathy Baxter, chief architect of Salesforce’s ethical AI practices, has reported that measuring a company’s total carbon emissions is a daunting task and is traditionally an estimate rather than an actual measure. increase.I talked during the meeting.

“We’re really getting better and there’s no way we can really know what a correlation is, what a causality is,” she said. “If you don’t know where your emissions are coming from, you can’t control them.”

Salesforce is aggressively pursuing sustainability goals, and the company and its largest customers are launching NetZero Cloud as a way to measure carbon emissions in scopes 1, 2, and 3 across their supply and value chains. .. Emissions in Scope 1 and 2 are directly controlled by the enterprise, while emissions in Scope 3 are outside the control of the enterprise, such as those in the supply chain.

Baxter said more data is needed to support further sustainability efforts.

“There is no way a single company, a single government can solve this problem,” she said. “We need to pool the data together and understand the solution together.”

Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering Big Tech and federal regulations. Before she joined TechTarget, she Wilmington Starnews And crime and education reporters Wabash Plain Dealer..