Human hand and a cyborg hand approach each other

28. March 2023
Vanessa Bittroff

How sustainable are we, ChatGPT?

It’s Thursday afternoon — Vanessa (me) is about to meet for a virtual interview. She sits at the kitchen table, opens her laptop and types in the URL of OpenAI’s artificial intelligence ‘ChatGPT’ in her Google search bar. Conducting an interview with an artificial intelligence (AI) is a first for her. Almost contradictory feelings accompany Vanessa at this moment: respect, curiosity, almost anticipation — she doesn’t really know. First, she takes a quick look at the prepared interview questions.

Vanessa has been working as a project manager at Vast Forward for three years. She has dedicated a part of her working time since 2020 with a lot of energy, research work and heart and soul to sustainability — a topic that is also close to her private heart.

What is sustainability? Does living sustainably also mean having to do without the “nice things” at the same time? How open are people when it comes to changing habits? And what does artificial intelligence actually have to say about it?

And now for her interview guest: Who or what is this ChatGPT? ChatGPT is an AI model that went public at the same time as other models. Relatively parallel to the publication of ChatGPT, the app ‘Lensa’ also made headlines.

Artificial intelligences combine the accumulated knowledge of the Internet, which has been trained to them in their training processes. The AI ‘ChatGPT’ has obtained its knowledge through countless documents such as books, articles, websites, scientific papers and other documents (but only until the year 2021*). But can an AI use it to provide us with answers to the major problems of our time? Artificial intelligences are able to analyze large amounts of data quickly and easily. This enables them to recognize patterns and make predictions. However, AIs are only as good as the data they have been fed. If these are incomplete or even incorrect, the results of an AI will also be partly inaccurate. What can we learn from this?

Vanessa tested it and arranged to meet ChatGPT for black tea & cookies to chat about resource consumption, sustainability and climate change.

Viewer looks over Vanessa's shoulders at her laptop with which she is conducting the interview with ChatGPT.

I am an Assistant, a large language model trained by OpenAI. I can help you answer questions, solve problems, and give you general information about many topics. If you want to know something specific, just ask me about it. I will do my best to help you!

The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) has both advantages and disadvantages.

Some of the benefits include:

  • AI can help make processes more efficient and accurate by automatically completing tasks that previously had to be done by humans.
  • AI can help make new discoveries in science and medicine by analyzing large amounts of data and identifying patterns that humans can miss.
  • AI can help minimize human error and prevent accidents by taking over tasks that are dangerous or strenuous for humans.

Some of the disadvantages are:

  • AI can lead to jobs being lost through automation.
  • The use of AI can also cause problems in terms of data protection, ethics and justice, e.g. when it comes to processing sensitive data or decision-making in critical situations.
  • There is a risk that AI systems will not be properly controlled and regulated, leading to potentially harmful decisions.

Overall, it can be said that AI can have both positive and negative impacts and it is important to think carefully about how it is used and ensure that its use is ethical and responsible.

Sustainability describes the state in which the needs of the present are met without compromising the opportunities of the future. This means that the resources we use today should be used in a way that ensures they will still be available in the future.

 

Sustainability usually comprises three aspects: Environmental sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability.

  • Environmental sustainability
    refers to managing natural resources and preventing damage to the environment.
  • Social sustainability
    refers to the promotion of social justice and the improvement of living conditions for people.
  • Economic sustainability
    refers to the ability of a society to maintain its economic development

The problem of resource overexploitation is a complex challenge that is influenced by many factors, including population growth, economic growth, lifestyle, and technology. There is no simple solution to this problem, but rather a number of approaches that, taken together, can help reduce resource overexploitation. Some of these approaches are:

  • Increasing efficiency:
    by increasing efficiency in the use of resources, e.g. by using technologies that save resources or increase the use of resources, the amount of resources needed can be reduced.
  • Renewable energy:
    Switching to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power instead of fossil fuels can help reduce dependence on limited resources and reduce environmental impact.
  • Recycling and waste reduction:
    Reusing and recycling materials and avoiding waste can reduce the amount of resources needed.
  • Education and awareness:
    by creating awareness of the problem of overuse of resources and promoting sustainable behaviors, it can help reduce resource use.
  • Regulation and policies:
    Regulations and policies, such as taxes on resource use or environmental standards, can help reduce resource overuse and encourage the development of sustainable technologies and practices.

There is no guarantee that these approaches alone will solve the problem, but a combination of these approaches and other efforts can help reduce resource waste and create a more sustainable future.

Sustainability and capitalism can be difficult to reconcile because capitalism in its traditional form is often focused on maximizing profits, which often leads to exploitation of natural resources and a negative impact on the environment. Sustainability, on the other hand, focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. To resolve these tensions, it is often argued that a sustainable form of capitalism must be developed that incorporates environmental concerns into economic decisions.

Companies can act sustainably by designing their business activities and products in a way that does not harm the environment, society or the economy. 

Some ways to do this are:

  • Using renewable energy and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Use of recycled materials and avoidance of waste
  • Responsible procurement of raw materials
  • Implementing social and ethical standards in dealing with employees and suppliers
  • Supporting communities and initiatives to improve the quality of life
  • Transparent reporting on the company’s sustainable activities.

There are many ways a person can act sustainably. Here are a few examples:

  • Energy efficiency:
    Reduce energy consumption by using energy-saving light bulbs, setting heating or air conditioning to lower temperatures, and turning off appliances when not in use.
  • Public transportation, biking or walking:
    Instead of using a car to get to work or school, public transportation, bicycles, or walking can reduce carbon emissions while exercising.
  • Recycle:
    recycling paper, plastic, glass and other materials can help reduce the use of natural resources and reduce environmental impact.
  • Eating sustainably:
    eating a balanced, plant-based diet can help reduce your use of resources and reduce your environmental impact, such as eating less meat.
  • Purchasing decisions:
    When making purchasing decisions, try to choose products made from sustainable materials and produced under ethical conditions.
  • Relationships:
    Try to build relationships with companies and organizations that use sustainable practices and are committed to a more sustainable future.

These are just a few examples and there are many more ways to act sustainably that can be applied on a personal and societal level. The important thing is that everyone makes their own contribution and is aware that every decision and action has an impact.

Climate change is a very complex problem due to many factors, including man-made greenhouse gas emissions, land use change and other environmental problems. There is no simple solution to stop climate change; it requires a combination of actions at different levels and in different areas.

An important measure would be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using renewable energy and reducing energy consumption. This can be achieved by promoting solar and wind energy, as well as the use of electric vehicles and energy efficiency.

Another important aspect is reforestation and the restoration of natural habitats. Trees and plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and help maintain biodiversity. Sustainable land use and protection of natural resources is also important to reduce environmental impact and combat climate change.

Another measure is adaptation to climate change, through the construction of infrastructure and the development of technologies that help us better cope with the effects of climate change.

It is important to emphasize that climate change is a global problem and that efforts to combat it require international cooperation. It will take a global effort and equitable burden sharing for action to combat climate change to be successful.

Ultimately, it is important to emphasize that it is not possible to stop climate change completely, but it is possible to mitigate its effects and slow the rate of climate change. It will require efforts at many different levels and by many different actors, including governments, businesses, and individuals.

It is difficult to quantify the exact CO2 consumption of my function as an AI model because it depends on various factors, such as the amount of queries I answer and the way the data centers that run me generate their electricity.

However, it is well known that data center operations have some energy consumption and therefore contribute to carbon emissions. According to some estimates, data center operations worldwide contribute about 1-2% to global greenhouse gas emissions.

There are many efforts and aspirations by data center operators to optimize energy consumption and use renewable energy to reduce their carbon footprint.

However, I am a tool and I am not responsible for my own CO2 consumption, but for the information and knowledge I provide that can empower people to make their own decisions to reduce their carbon footprint.

Thank you for the conversation, ChatGPT.

Vanessa closes the laptop and thinks about what has been said. It’s nice that much of what she knows about sustainability is reflected in ChatGPT’s answers. But still, answers from an AI should always be taken with a grain of salt. She is somewhat disappointed that ChatGPT was not able to calculate the CO2 consumption of the interview for her. She had actually expected more.

Vanessa sits at the kitchen table with black tea and cookies and types in her laptop.

* A chatbot also has certain limitations, as we can see from the Capital article. For example, ChatGPT cannot include current events in its responses because its knowledge base currently only extends to 2021. Furthermore, a chatbot does not have the ability to question or even think critically. On top of that, some of the AI’s answers are demonstrably wrong. This is because there is “no source of truth” in the AI’s training data, he said.
** All interview answers were given 1:1 by ChatGPT and were not changed by me.

 

sources:

Was Sie über ChatGPT wissen müssen from www.capital.de
Kritischer Journalismus hat einen Preis from www.taz.de
Weltklimarat: Klimawandel bedroht Menschen und Erde from www.br.de
Sustainable Friday: Klimaangst from Vanessa Bittroff

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