Perhaps it’s time to slow down with creating wacky AI art just for sh*ts and giggles. This is because the energy needed to generate one piece of AI art is equivalent to the amount needed to fully charge your smartphone.
This is according to the latest study by Hugging Face and Carnegie Mellon University. Researchers pulled together the top ten use cases for AI on Hugging Face’s platform, and examined the carbon emission level of those use cases.
The top ten tasks performed by Hugging Face users included image generation, text generation, summarisation, Q&A, and so on.
Creating an AI-generated image
Next, researchers ran those tasks on 88 different AI models; 1,000 prompts for each task were run through those models. Code Carbon, a software that analyses the amount of carbon dioxide produced by computers, was then used to calculate the energy consumption levels of the thousands of tasks.
In the end, researchers found that generative tasks a.k.a. getting an AI tool to produce an image or text, consumed the most energy at around 0.05kWh per 1,000 prompts. On the other hand, text classification tasks consumed the least amount of energy at 0.0023kWh per 1,000 prompts.
Yes, this also means that AI-generated art consumes ten times more energy than, for example, getting ChatGPT to categorise keywords.
… but that’s not all. The most fascinating part of the study was where researchers noted that image generation tasks in particular “uses as much energy as 950 smartphone charges (11.49 kWh), or nearly 1 charge per image generation”.
In other words, one piece of AI art could charge your iPhone to one hundred percent. Enough battery for a full day out with your mates.
The environmental cost of running AI
This study by Hugging Face and Carnegie Mellon is not the first that delved into the environmental impact of running AI systems. In October, a study by Amsterdam School of Business and Economics revealed that thanks to our surge in AI use worldwide, energy consumption by Google’s Search engine each day is enough to power the entire nation of Ireland.
As AI continues to permeate nearly every aspect of our lives, expect the environmental cost of the technology to be much, much higher. So, the next time you’re thinking about jumping onto a viral AI art trend, maybe think twice!