On 21 November 2023 is the first lecture from the series "Communicative AI Lecture: ChatGPT, Ethics and Sustainability". The guest is Prof. Dr Julia Velkova (Linköping University, Sweden) with the topic "Greening the cloud: data and energy entanglements in friction", this lecture is also part of the Sustainability Lectures of Faculty 9.
When: 21 November 2023 - 18:00-20:00
Where: Rotunda, Cartesium Building (Enrique-Schmidt-Straße 5, 28359 Bremen)
Amidst intensifying debates about the possibilities and harms with AI and automated-decision making, their energetic needs and scale of operations are also soaring. How much is the carbon footprint of an AI? How many watts of energy does an AI consume? – are questions that are gaining new traction as public concerns about the environmental toll of these systems are rising. In this talk I take a backend approach (Parks, Velkova and De Ridder, 2023) to these questions and turn to the infrastructure that capacitates AI operations – data centers, examining the efforts of Big Tech actors to green their operations by procuring large amounts of “green” energy in the Nordic countries. Drawing on examples and fieldwork from Microsoft and Google data center and energy infrastructure establishments in Sweden, I track how “sustainable” digital and energy futures are imagined and materialized via electric wires and grids, wind turbines, power-purchase agreements, diesel fumes, reindeers, and land disputes in dynamic ways that produce multiple forms of societal inequalities, breakages and infrastructural instabilities. I show how the limits of AI are the limits of electric grids, and how harms with AI can also extend via the materialities and sociotechnical arrangements of electricity networks. In conclusion, I discuss the importance of shifting perspective on digital “sustainabilities” and the questions that we ask: from quantity to process, and from counting emissions to understanding the manifold frictions (Tsing) that undergird the entanglements between digital and energy industries as they attempt to imagine joint “sustainable” futures.