Picture from Digi.no visiting their podcast (Foto: Eirik Helland Urke)

Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence an Interview With Digi.no

Speaking About the Climate Crisis and Artificial Intelligence in the Digi.no podcast

For my article today I thought I would transcribe an interview that I did with a technology publication. I was being interviewed on the podcast of Digi.no, one of the leading publications in Norway aimed at professionals, leaders and decision-makers in the IT-industry. The interview is in Norwegian and I had a lot of fun talking about artificial intelligence. You can find the interview here in Norwegian however I translated it into English further down.

Here follows a loose transcription from the interview:

Sebastian Storvik: My name is Sebastian Storvik you are listening to double click. Today we are going to talk about artificial intelligence and I got Alex Moltzau with me here:

Alex Moltzau: hello!

Sebastian: You have a project going that you have going and I thought was pretty wild. You are going to write 500 articles about AI, one every day. Now you are almost half way.

Alex: Now I am on day 245.

Sebastian: how in the world did you find out that you are going to do this.

Alex: It was a weird process. I talked to some weapon scientists about autonomous weapons. I had an interest for other topics before like climate and how a little bit how we can take care of the world.

Sebastian: it was Kongsberg?

Alex: It was when I held a presentation there, but I think we have come to realise that it can be used in a good way to help the world, but it can also be used for less fortunate things. It is an hyperbole that others have talked about all these views we have on artificial intelligence and autonomous weapons. Machine learning is a little bit more down to earth and can be used for standard applications. I think it is important to think about both, we have to think about how to use it in a responsible way.

Sebastian: what kind of background do you have?

Alex: I have a background from UK in management, but I have also been studying a host of social science subjects and computer science subjects. So social anthropology, political science, and right now I am doing a double BA in Social Anthropology and Chinese as well as a Minor in Computer Science. So it is a wide background, however I have worked much with youth, entrepreneurship and the climate.

Sebastian: so climate is important here?

Alex: Yes it quickly becomes a lacking discussion in many AI and technology conferences. We are often in utopia or dystopia while we forget the present in certain cases. There has been large protests across the world where children and youth have been in the streets saying that it is enough, however that might not be as present in the technology industry.

Sebastian: but the first 50 articles, how was that?

Alex: it was really hard, to sit down everyday and write was difficult and it quickly became sitting down every day no matter what you do, then writing. I am married, and my wife got slightly angry with me, however it has become a routine now, so the world is a bit better. It takes time, however it is nice to invest time to understand an exciting technology that is written so much about and goes into so many parts of society.

Sebastian: before this how familiar were you with AI?

Alex: I was relatively familiar from before and had thought about it as well as programmed. It was different to have some foundational knowledge than diving into a topic. I think it is very exciting to look at practical cases to understand how the technology is used. I have ended up thinking about the applications of the technology and at the same time I have ended up trying to understand what footprint AI has in terms of the climate.

Sebastian: what did you find out?

Alex: so I have found out that we often talk about AI without talking about data centres, infrastructure, supply chain, those who make it possible to run these systems and there are of course a lot of emissions through data centres. The material cost of building data centres and cooling is one of the highest adverse impact for the environment. We are also one of the worst on e-waste as an example in Norway. Should we say artificial intelligence, and then say that AI should be responsible for all of this that sounds strange. Yet at the same time when you buy a product you wish that product to be as responsible as possible, and it is possible to take responsibility and think about further how to be responsible.

Sebastian: now all stored data will be part of AI because it is what it uses?

Alex: the way people talk about it on conference after conference after conference is: big data and “give us all your data and we can understand, give us data and we can understand, if you don’t we can’t do much for you so we hope you have control of your data etc.” There are other approaches as well, however they work different in France. They attempt to understand how to model reality, with physics, how does reality work and maybe we can learn in a more responsible way so that we do not need data from 2 million people. The different type of learning is important, but in GDPR it says you need to be very conscious about what data you keep or not from a ‘consumer’. That is actually very sustainable, so that is not the first thing people think about when they think about GDPR. It is a climate responsibility, so a company does not need to keep all information in the world just to maybe think they might use some of it. You have to be conscious about what you need or not need, so that you can be a more responsible technology company.

Sebastian: you are very concerned with climate, what are the use cases where it can contribute the most?

Alex: I am super interested in that. There is a specific community in the AI community called climatechange.ai so there are more at different conferences. A lot of people have become aware and that is great to see, as it is getting more space. There are so many use cases. One is in energy networks, doing it better and more efficient. Using energy and distributing energy, but also power grids physically, how you can maintain it or repair it. If you know it better through machine learning that use picture or video data. It is great for society so there is not a lack of probable use cases.

Sebastian: with 250 articles are there some use cases that have impressed you?

Alex: I am often impressed with OpenAI because they are one of the most interesting and responsible actors at the same time. Elon Musk and Peter Thiel invested a billion early, but Microsoft have gone in with another billion last year. They are working more towards responsible robotics, and it is often in factories that you start using artificial intelligence. They have been working in controlled environments and in collaboration with people. However they also think about AGI — artificial general intelligence, and how existential risk… That is further forward, but they are an interesting company. I have been impressed many times, and they are great at communicating information. They are one to keep an eye on.

Sebastian: at the other end of the spectrum what has disappointed you?

Alex: It is a pity to say it, because I am excited by the AI strategy… But when you mention climate in the first sentence and not going specifically into it that is a bit disappointing, I hoped it was more included in the Norwegian AI strategy. Another disappointing thing is that I have looked a lot at AI strategy, because I have read them, they are a bit boring and say mostly the same thing. I think it would be great if we invested more from the public into AI, there is an investment will in the nordics. We need to invest more in social science together with technology. You will have a better use of technology and particular AI that people are so afraid of.

Sebastian: when we walked into the room we talked about Amazon? You weren’t particularly impressed.

Alex: Yes, not impressed, and it is a pity. I have held some presentations of Amazon with a burning forest in the background, well… They are the largest actor when it comes to data centres, a lot of data is run through those and they mostly use fossil fuels. They are a company that work against transparency into the technology and IT-sector. If there is no transparency on the use of data that is used in what place there is a much lower degree of responsibility emissions. Even if they say 100% renewables you need to take responsibility in the value chain and show responsibility. They announced targets and took actions that completely contradicted what they said. At the same time the developers in Amazon.com have protested in the street asking for climate leadership now. Developers as a group in society have an important role to play here, because of course they have power. They have an important role for technology companies and they have a voice. They can actually say it: you know what climate is important for me so it should be important for you. One of the most inspiring things is how developers in technology firms have carried that banner. That is exciting. In one way I am negative, Amazon get a grip, and at the same time there are employees there that are pushing in a different direction.

This is #500daysofAI and you are reading article 253. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence every day for 500 days. My current focus for 100 days 200–300 is national and international strategies for artificial intelligence.

AI Policy and Ethics at www.nora.ai. Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own. twitter.com/AlexMoltzau