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Total Cost of AI?

I was listening to the latest episode of The Important Thing, where they meander around the implications of generative AI. One form of the question they articulated was what happens when stuff is cheaply generated for, as I heard it, by such AIs and for everyone.

The question that came to mind for me was: is it even cheap?

I don’t know.

I haven’t done my homework, so I am speaking for myself in articulating this question — I have a vague sense of recently seeing some reporting on energy usage by these breakthrough AIs (one reason they’re in the cloud is it isn’t practical to run this client-side, they need the cloud)… but I don’t know the particulars, or how it compares to say, crypto mining. But I think we’d even have to compare it to the total cost of feeding a human. The mining of ore and building of machines and generation of energy and environmental impact to run an AI vs. say … cost of same of humans. And that’s just in a sort of typical Capitalist framework.

This is just an inkling. I don’t really know all the bits I am alluding to here. My gut feeling is that when we internalize costs, the machines aren’t advantageous as is widely projected—whether or not that happens to be validated in this case.

Kevin Kelly repeatedly references (reported in Wired twenty years ago, recounted recently by Kelly in this conversation) what he learned about Amish communities' adoption of technology — slow, intentional, broader than most assume - and I kind of wish our society was more like this. Like the Luddites professed to be, with some core values.