Sat. Mar 25th, 2023

Microsoft-backed artificial intelligence (AI) research startup OpenAI developed and released ChatGPT in November 2022. For the past few months, ChatGPT has been hugely popular and has even set a record in the tech world by reaching the 100 million user milestone within two months. Microsoft has also partnered with OpenAI to integrate the AI chatbot in its Bing search engine and Edge browser. The ability to deliver AI-powered search results has started a race between Microsoft and Google to implement the technology in their browsers.
Why Google, Microsoft’s AI race can affect the planet
Tech giants Google and Microsoft are planning to use large language models to improve search engine results. The companies claim that by integrating AI, search engines will analyse and summarise “complex” data and will offer responses to the queries in a ‘human-like’ way. Microsoft has recently shared its plans to integrate ChatGPT into its existing search engine Bing. While Google has also announced Bard which the company describes as an “experimental conversational AI service”.
For both companies, maintaining computer systems to help with search engines is already a resource-intense operation. AI chatbot integration will make the operation even heavier and will lead to more energy consumption.
According to a report by Wired, the power that is needed to train a single AI can produce a huge amount of carbon emissions. Meanwhile, internet usage produces nearly 4% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

The report also mentions that experts have warned that the computing prowess required to combine AI with a load of search engine queries will be increased for companies like Google and Microsoft by up to 5 times. With more computers, greenhouse gas emissions will also increase.
Alan Woodward, professor of cybersecurity at the University of Surrey, has mentioned: “It requires processing power as well as storage and efficient search. Every time we see a step change in online processing, we see significant increases in the power and cooling resources required by large processing centres. I think this could be such a step.”
Martin Bouchard, the founder of the data centre company QScale, has said that AI would result in “at least four or five times more computing per search.” Moreover, the upgraded search engines will also need more data centres for storage.
How the companies are planning to tackle this
Jane Park, a spokesperson for Google, has said that the company will at first launch a “lighter” version of Bard that will require less computing power, reports Insider. Par continued, “We have also published research detailing the energy costs of state-of-the-art language models, including an earlier and larger, version of LaMDA. Our findings show that combining efficient models, processors, and data centres with clean energy sources can reduce the carbon footprint of an ML system by as much as 1000X.”
Apart from environmental issues, ChatGPT and Google’s AI have also received other criticisms. Another report by CNBC claims that an employee has blamed Google’ Bard as “rushed and botched.”

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Tanushree K

By Tanushree


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