The Enormous Carbon Footprint of AI

AI sits squarely in the climate gap. Will the unrestricted pursuit of AI in health care exacerbate health inequities?

Although artificial intelligence (AI) has exploded in popular culture with the roll out of new generative AI tools for consumers (eg, chatbots, image and voice generation), AI’s role in health care has emerged in a more controlled fashion. The potential of AI in health care has been firmly established with the FDA approval of AI models (largely imaging applications) and the surge of R&D in the field. The announcement earlier this year of a deep learning algorithm that can predict the risk of pancreatic cancer years before onset exemplifies the direct impact AI can have on health outcomes, as pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose early, when it is curable, and it is deadly when diagnosed in its later stages, with only a 2%-9% 5-year survival rate. In pancreatic cancer, early diagnosis means the difference between life and death. There is little doubt that quality AI models, when implemented well and maintained, will improve health outcomes for patients. But recent research into the impact of AI on the climate begs the question of which patients will benefit, and at what cost to the health of others? Continue reading “The Enormous Carbon Footprint of AI”