Environment impact of AI

Da Impatti sociali dell'intelligenza artificiale.
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The French Department of Environment has recently published a study on the environmental impact of the emails.

The study argues that 8 email, on average, have an impact on the environment as a kilometer traveled by car. 8-email-pollute-as-1-km-in-car .

Move the information has a cost. It costs much less than the physical movement of paper or move to make a meeting or buying an encyclopedia or a paper magazine, but has a cost (see i-bit-hanno-un-peso ).

The problem is that we're abusing. This pollutes the environment, but, in a certain sense pollutes even ourselves. This mass of information garbage disturbs us and prevents us to focus and to think in depth. If you do not answer the email I call on the desk phone, the phone on Skype, linkedin, Facebook and twitter until you stop what you were doing and jumps in my context. These jumps of context, have a cost. Back to follow our train of thought or the work we were doing is not so simple and without side effects.

The services become ever more immaterial (think bitcoin) but underneath there must still be something that moves, turns, burns energy, occupies space, burns resources (often with a significant environmental impact). The problem is that too often we do not take into account the second law of thermodynamics.


The European Commission is working with 27 leading technology companies in the world and with different associations to measure the carbon dioxide emissions from the production, transport and sales of ICT goods, networks and servizi.L'obiettivo is to have a common method measuring, in order to get a clearer picture, and, finally, the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Estimates suggest that every minute of the day, 48 hours of new video content are uploaded to YouTube, 700,000 Facebook users share content, Google receives more than 2 million search queries and 200 million emails are sent, let alone tweet, blog , etc. Since a single search query may produce from a few tenths of a gram to a few grams of CO2 depending on the type of energy used to power the devices relevant, the total emissions of CO2 can have a considerable entity. Currently calculation of these emissions, in particular industry, vary significantly and are heavily dependent on the different methods used.

The Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said: "Transparency in the measurement of the environmental impact ICT 'will enable all of us, citizens, public and private, to make correct choices from an environmental point of view when we buy or use digital technologies. "

The products and ICT services are currently responsible for a percentage that goes from '8-10% of electricity consumption in the EU and up to 4% of its carbon dioxide emissions. Measure the environmental impact of the ICT sector in a transparent manner is essential to help to use the global energy resources in a sustainable way.

Measuring the impact on the environment in terms of emission of C02 is, moreover, certainly trivialize the problem. Information technology, as the others, also have an impact on the processes of raw material extraction, processing, disposal (coltan).

We need to understand the economic, social and environmental technologies that we propose.

Based on data Trucost, the study Mind Your Step invites the global industry to pay attention not only carbon footprint of their products, but also to other key indicators such as consumption of water resources and soil. The report indicates that in fact to produce a pair of leather boots are used 14.5 tons of water and 50 square meters of land. For a smartphone serve nearly 13 tons of water and 18 square meters of land. For a T-shirt takes about 4 tons of water while the surface of the soil used is a little more than 4 square meters. For a chocolate bar serves nearly a ton and a half of water and more than 2.5 square meters of land. Often, he notes the study, to make a difference is the packaging and the choice of raw materials. In the clothing sector, for example, about 20% of the consumption of water and soil is to be debited to the materials used in packaging. That percentage rises to 84% (applicable only to the ground) for the toy industry.

Some instruments may have a positive impact on this situation: we think of the Web 2.0 network we are .

Because it changes the impact sending an email that, instead of containing an attachment, pointing to links where you stored a document?

As not sending the email?

As the tools and paradigms of artificial intelligence may affect this scenario?

There are without doubt scenarios where the use of AI can optimize the use of resources and improve the cost and environmental impact Gridsense .

We also think the development of smart cities (semantic and smart or intelligent cities), tools for the optimization of business processes and production cycles, etc.).

Agents with which we are getting used to interact on smartphones (Siri, Google+, Cortana) are evolving rapidly, know our habits, the context in which we live and will soon be able to suggest behaviors, filter and respond to mail, help in 'arrange a meeting, etc. Intelligent_personal_assistant

In practice can be a valuable asset to optimize, organize and manage the email avalanche phenomenon that we mentioned at the beginning of this document.

Knowledge and intelligence can be a critical factor for survival and to increase our fitness (and we humans should know).

Gradually these "intelligent personal assistant" diveranno more intelligent and autonomous but also increase the degree of dependence that man will develop with these tools. We will be able to do without it and, above all, because these tools will filter the knowledge of the world and we will see only a part (perhaps the most widely accepted).

Another problem: what consumerano these tools and how you will place in the ecosystem? Robots become more autonomous and assistants smarter, we will consider them not only as machines, but as organisms (with a life cycle to be discovered) immersed in the ecosystem social, economic and ecological. If we're smart we'll have to figure out how to survive this change. The theme of the impact of artificial intelligence on the world of work is the attention of all and the Association has begun to speak before many others. I believe it is only one aspect to consider.

If James Lovelock is right, life is a phenomenon adored robust, able to withstand heavy use. And 'our duty to understand what intelligence mechanics will be able to fit into the economic system, but also in life itself. We then need to see if the new environment will be suitable to perpetuate our species or our fitness will be incorrect bringing extinction.

The problem is not easy to analyze because we do not have economic models consolidated environmental costs of certain categories of goods and services.

Taking a simple example we consider the electric car. Surely the electric motor is efficient and saves power consumption during braking and downtime. But the energy to recharge the batteries somewhere must be generated, how they should be considered the cost and impact on the construction and disposal of batteries.

Translating the example in computing is evident that an intelligent agent could contibuire to optimize processes, reduce environmental impacts, reduce waste (think of the food, energy, etc.). But the cost of construction, operation and the entire life cycle of an artificial intelligence is not well defined.


Event Florence[modifica]

Lost time and wasted energy[modifica]

  • Piero Poccianti: The cost of IT tools. Environmental impacts.
  • Amedeo Cesta: evolution of the agents and their use
  • Marco Gori: Perversion and damage of information technology.
  • Roberto Basili: extraction of concepts and information dl web, social networks and public and private networks
  • Fabrizio Riguzzi: Machine learning for sustainability 'environment.


References[modifica]