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AI and cryptocurrency are hungry, hungry hippos

Dimming the lights in your house? Warming the planet more? Both artificial intelligence (AI) and bitcoin mining are progressing that way in their huge energy use for all the computing power needed.

In the April 2024 issue of Physics Today, David Kramer lays out how AI in Chat-GPT or added to Google searches will ramp up electricity use massively, equal to the total energy demand of the Netherlands by 2027. Let’s toss in cryptocurrency mining by users of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and others; The Guardian notes that the energy use matches that of Sweden. Are these massive usages productive?

Various studies show that many, perhaps most, corporations are jumping onto AI in so-so or poorly planned ways, as “fear of missing out.” Of course, there are productive ways. Our son, David, uses a form of AI, machine learning, as a team working to develop brain implants to help disabled people. Cryptocurrencies as used currently are at best a form of gambling with the huge swings in value, and at worst a way to transact illegal trade in drugs and more.

Some corporations see legit uses, as for secure banking, adapting the blockchain technology of cryptocurrency. That’s a good step; banks have a poor record of cybersecurity. The mix of AI and crypto, banking, scientific research, the energy grids, and climate promises to be a rather wild ride.

This has been an outreach activity of the Las Cruces Academy, viewable at GreatSchools.org.

Story from Physics Today April ’24, Scientific American Oct. ’23, phys.org, and The Guardian 29 Mar. ‘22

Image: In Physics Today, p. 29

Vince grew up in the Chicago suburb of Berwyn. He has enjoyed a long career in science, starting in chemistry and physics and moving through plant physiology, ecology, remote sensing, and agronomy.
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  • KRWG explores the world of science every week with Vince Gutschick, Chair of the Board, Las Cruces Academy lascrucesacademy.org and New Mexico State University Professor Emeritus, Biology.