Written by 10:54 pm ChatGPT, Generative AI, OpenAI, Uncategorized

### AI’s Environmental Benefits: Insights from ChatGPT

We are an environmental humanities researcher and an AI scholar. When we asked ChatGPT if AI system…

As researchers in climate science and artificial intelligence (AI), we delve into the complex relationship between rapidly advancing technology and the natural world. Our focus centers on exploring how AI methodologies influence social and environmental sustainability.

When we questioned whether AI techniques could aid in addressing the climate emergency, ChatGPT responded with optimism. However, we harbored doubts about the validity of this assertion.

AI is not inherently geared towards precision; rather, its core function revolves around forecasting responses based on existing data from both humans and machines. This often leads to a bias towards popular information in responses, which may not always align with critical significance.

In contrast to the widespread assertions promoted by chatbot algorithms, our thorough examination of key literature on the impacts of AI unveiled a disconcerting reality. Presently, AI systems worsen global issues by hastening processes that amplify cultural disparities, increase energy consumption, deepen political divisions, and contribute to ecological harm.

The swift integration of “smart” technologies that exacerbate our most pressing challenges prompts a fundamental query: why do societies embrace technologies that worsen existing crises?

One plausible explanation is that AI technologies function within a societal framework propelled by relentless economic expansion, unable to address its inherent constraints. Despite the well-documented knowledge that perpetual economic growth on a finite planet is unsustainable, the primary impetus behind technology adoption remains the pursuit of economic advancement.

In recent decades, global injustices have escalated while various facets of the environmental crisis continue to deteriorate. Technological progress further entrenches these unsustainable patterns within a growth-centric economic model.

At a time when our collective welfare hinges on responsible behaviors, the acceleration of detrimental trends by our automated systems raises alarms. Instead of advancing a fundamentally flawed and inequitable techno-social system through AI integration, a more judicious approach would involve establishing ethically just and sustainable foundations before imbuing it with AI capabilities.

The misleading narratives propagated by tech corporations regarding the societal advantages of AI systems overlook their intrinsic drawbacks. Many technology experts caution that numerous AI applications perpetuate societal prejudices, undermine democratic processes, and exacerbate existing inequities.

While the societal hazards of AI have garnered substantial attention, its environmental repercussions are equally significant. Affluent populations often enjoy the benefits of technological innovations while marginalized communities bear the brunt of environmental harm.

AI technologies, akin to other high-tech products, are resource-intensive and environmentally unsustainable. Amidst environmental degradation and energy scarcity, the exponential expansion of global computing infrastructure driven by AI raises crucial questions about sustainability.

Despite endeavors to incorporate AI techniques into sustainability endeavors, the overall impact remains minimal. Improvements in eco-efficiency do not offset the escalating material and energy demands fueled by a growth-oriented economic model.

In her book, Atlas of AI (2021), Kate Crawford underscores how AI operates as an extractive industry reshaping human perceptions and global ecologies profoundly. The rapid progression of AI has spurred celestial extractivism, leading to a surge in e-waste accumulation, even in outer space.

Technochauvinism, as highlighted by Meredith Broussard, perpetuates the misconception that high-tech solutions always reign supreme, disregarding simpler, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly alternatives. Public discourse and ethical considerations are increasingly marginalized as AI systems autonomously make intricate decisions, fostering a society lacking critical introspection.

The dwindling emphasis on humanities programs in favor of specialized degrees reflects a broader trend prioritizing technical proficiency over historical and cultural insights. Without a comprehensive grasp of the societal ramifications of technology, our solutions may exacerbate existing challenges rather than mitigate them.

To leverage technology for the collective good and environmental sustainability, we must challenge the prevailing economic culture fixated on perpetual growth. By reassessing our values and priorities, we can steer technological innovations towards advancing the common good and environmental stewardship while discouraging exploitative practices and power differentials.

Genuine wisdom in technology can only be attained when the development and application of technologies align with societal well-being and prioritize community welfare over individual profit.

Ultimately, the influence of machine learning technology extends beyond human domains to vital ecological systems. It is imperative to transition towards a more enlightened economic paradigm that guides technological progress in harmony with societal welfare and ecological conservation. Only then can our tools mirror our finest qualities rather than our worst tendencies.

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Last modified: February 3, 2024
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