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Impact of the Digital Technology on Environment

The Publication of the latest IPCC climate report clearly indicates that digital technology is on the way to becoming one of the most polluting industrial sectors. And according to an MIT study, training an artificial intelligence program would emit as much CO2 as the continuous use of five cars over their lifetime.

Data and poorly controlled Web contributes more and more to carbon emissions in the world. The same is true for dematerialized computing, known as the cloud, deployed in recent years in server farms, which have greatly increased the density of data traffic on the networks. But a new subject worries climatologists: that of the massive adoption by large companies of artificial intelligence programs used to process the constant flow of billions of pieces of information passing through the Internet. Most of the electricity needed for this computing power is produced by power plants burning fossil fuels. Preserving the benefits of technologies while limiting their environmental impacts is possible, says Mehdi Chouiten, co-founder of Datategy, an online platform that specializes in the “ecological” management of these AI programs.

“The idea is not to delete all our digital activities today, of course, and no one is currently campaigning in this direction. On the other hand, we must become aware of the problem and raise awareness both of the end users of the technologies, but also of the engineers who designed the web platforms, the data centers and the systems using artificial intelligence programs. The energy consumption of commissioning and training a single specialized algorithm, for example, in natural language processing on a computer server (like those that remotely control our connected speakers, editor’s note) generates permanently as many carbon emissions as five cars driving their entire life. When you turn on your vehicle’s engine, you can directly see these polluting emissions coming out of the exhaust, whereas when you click on the button on a web page, it’s totally invisible and will ultimately generate more CO2 emissions than many other everyday uses, which we nevertheless consider to be particularly polluting.

Digital Technology which is slowly being put in place in companies, is at the antipodes of the constantly increasing personal use that we make of our electronic devices. While digital today accounts for 4% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, some studies indicate that this figure could double by 2025 if we do not control our unbridled data consumption now. .

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