Ethics and “AI”

On the Lawyers Guns and Money blog, Abigail Nussbaum writes:

“The companies that make AI — which is, to establish our terms right at the outset, large language models that generate text or images in response to natural language queries — have a problem. Their product is dubiously legal, prohibitively expensive (which is to say, has the kind of power and water requirements that are currently being treated as externalities and passed along to the general populace, but which in a civilized society would lead to these companies’ CEOs being dragged out into the street by an angry mob), and it objectively does not work. All of these problems are essentially intractable.”

What interests me here is how she focuses in on the main ethical problem with “AI” — the huge environmental impact of “AI.” Yes, it is evil that the “AI” companies steal people’s writing and steal people’s artwork. Yes, it is evil that the plutocrats want to have “AI” replace real humans (though as Nussbaum points out, if you factor in the real environmental costs, human labor is cheaper than “AI”). Yes, it is evil that “AI” is a product that doesn’t provide consistently good results. Yes, it is evil that”AI” is another way that the plutocrats can steal your personal data.

But here we are in the middle of an ecological crisis, and “AI” uses huge amounts of energy, and huge amounts of fresh water for cooling. “AI” is an environmental disaster. That is the real ethical problem.