Empowering AI

I noticed something new on the social media platforms that I use. As I compose each post, I am asked if I want to sharpen the message by using artificial intelligence (AI). Just to see how it worked, I agreed on one occasion. A simple message about the job market was transformed into a Marxian manifesto decrying the tyranny of capital over labor. I couldn’t hit the “undo” key fast enough.

Much as we might try, though, we are unlikely to escape the impact of AI. The time, attention and money that is being devoted to its development are all substantial. Another significant input to the transformation is electricity. Simply stated, AI is a power hog. According to the International Energy Agency, a ChatGPT query uses ten times more electricity than a simple Google search.

High-end analytics and machine learning perform billions of calculations in short spaces of time. Collecting and organizing the data required is also computationally demanding.


The infrastructure required to support the process—commercial buildings filled with servers bearing sophisticated microchips—requires an immense amount of electricity. Aside from the needs of these engines, advanced cooling systems are needed to prevent them from overheating.

Construction of new data centers is at a fever pitch. Rental rates for space at existing facilities are escalating at an annual pace of close to 20%. Stress on power grids has consequently been increasing. And the shares of power generators have been gaining at a pace that is several times the appreciation of the “Magnificent Seven” stocks. Shortages of commodities like copper and water are directly attributable to the headlong drive to expand computing power.