Futures 117 (2020)

Petr Spelda
Charles University, Prague
The environmental costs and energy constraints have become emerging issues for the future development of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). So far, the discussion on environmental impacts of ML/AI lacks a perspective reaching beyond quantitative measurements of the energy-related research costs. Building on the foundations laid down by Schwartz et al., 2019 in the GreenAI initiative, our argument considers two interlinked phenomena, the gratuitous generalisation capability and the future where ML/AI performs the majority of quantifiable inductive inferences. The gratuitous generalisation capability refers to a discrepancy between the cognitive demands of a task to be accomplished and the performance (accuracy) of a used ML/AI model. If the latter exceeds the former because the model was optimised to achieve the best possible accuracy, it becomes inefficient and its operation harmful to the environment. The future dominated by the non-anthropic induction describes a use of ML/AI so all-pervasive that most of the inductive inferences become furnished by ML/AI generalisations. The paper argues that the present debate deserves an expansion connecting the environmental costs of research and ineffective ML/AI uses (the issue of gratuitous generalisation capability) with the (near) future marked by the all-pervasive Human-Artificial Intelligence Nexus.
Keywords machine learning  artificial intelligence  induction  Anthropocene  climate change
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