💧 ChatGPT Uses Half-Litre of Water With Every Prompt Set
In the world of generative AI, tech behemoths like Microsoft, OpenAI, and Google are jostling for the top spot. But beneath the digital prowess lies a growing environmental hiccup: these AI systems are getting seriously thirsty.
Building an artificial intelligence isn’t just about feeding it data; it’s also about keeping it cool. Think of it as giving your servers a constant water break. Even the most advanced models would hit a dry spell without this liquid lifeline. The sheer volume of water these systems gulp down is mind-boggling.
Case in point: Microsoft’s recent disclosure of a 34 per cent surge in water consumption from 2021 to 2022, totalling a staggering 6.4 billion litres. That’s enough to fill 2,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools or one really, really big bathtub. Google’s not far behind, with a 20 per cent uptick in water usage, largely thanks to its AI endeavours.
Enter Shaolei Ren from the University of California, who’s been researching ChatGPT’s environmental footprint. According to Ren, every chat session with ChatGPT, spanning 20 to 50 prompts, sips about 500 millilitres of water. This thirst varies with server locations and seasons and includes the water used to chill the power plants fueling these data hubs.
Speaking of hubs, Microsoft, a stakeholder in OpenAI, recently unveiled a cutting-edge AI data centre in the heartland of Iowa, USA. The facility was designed to empower OpenAI in crafting its latest model, GPT-4. Iowa’s temperate climate for most of the year allows Microsoft to utilise ambient air to maintain optimal supercomputer performance. However, the company resorts to water when temperatures soar past 29.3 degrees Celsius.
In July 2022, as OpenAI wrapped up GPT-4’s training, Microsoft’s Iowa data centres consumed 43.5 million litres of water. This accounted for 6 per cent of the total water usage in the district.
Microsoft has already promised to be the good guy, aiming for carbon negativity, water positivity, and zero waste by 2030. However, the general public remains in the dark about the resources juicing up tools like ChatGPT. Without this enlightenment, we risk squandering vital resources on digital frivolities. So, chat wisely, folks, and let’s keep our planet hydrated.
Illustration: Elia Kabanov feat. MidJourney.