AI Text and Image Generators Found to Be More Environmentally Friendly Than Human Creators

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Image source: Midjourney

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems generate fewer carbon emissions when producing text and images compared to human writers and artists, according to a study titled “AI Generates Lower Carbon Emissions than Humans in Writing and Illustration.”

In a study conducted earlier this year, researchers found that AI systems such as ChatGPT, BLOOM, DALL-E 2, and Midjourney create literary works and images with orders of magnitude fewer carbon emissions than humans working manually or using computers.

The study, carried out by researchers from the University of California, Irvine, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the School of Law at the University of Kansas, and other organizations, compared the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of AI systems and humans engaged in similar activities. They based their analysis on average emissions per capita in the United States and India, factoring in the energy consumed during AI system training and task execution.

Researchers assumed that the “quality of the work produced by AI is satisfactory for any given task.” The key finding of the study is that the text processing and generation neural network BLOOM has an environmental impact 1,500 times lower than that of a U.S. resident creating one page of text. Meanwhile, the popular ChatGPT AI could perform a task with a carbon footprint 1,100 times smaller than that of a human.

The researchers noted that the emissions associated with solving tasks using the DALL-E2 neural network are similar to ChatGPT, at around 2.2 grams of CO2 per query. Midjourney, a neural network that creates images based on textual descriptions, has an even lower environmental impact at 1.9 grams of CO2 per query. Researchers suggest that “generating images using AI generates 310–2,900 times fewer CO2 emissions per image than when done by a human.”

It is important to note that this comparison isn’t entirely straightforward, as some tasks are simply beyond the capabilities of AI systems, such as writing an original article on a niche scientific topic or creating a work of art. Furthermore, humans leave a carbon footprint in their daily lives regardless of whether they are engaged in writing literary works or creating art.

Author Profile

Martin Harris
I'm Martin Harris, a tech writer with extensive experience, contributing to global publications. Trained in Computer Science, I merged my technical know-how with writing, becoming a technology journalist. I've covered diverse topics like AI and consumer electronics, contributing to top tech platforms. I participate in tech events for knowledge updating. Besides writing, I enjoy reading, photography, and aim to clarify technology's complexities to readers.

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