AI is often regarded as the silver bullet for solving the climate problem, but this overlooks the fact that all these algorithms also consume large amounts of power, which is often not sustainably generated. Kim van Sparrentak, who represents GroenLinks (Green-Left) in the European Parliament, is calling for environmental labels for AI and digitalisation.
“The ICT sector has a huge impact on the environment and we need to move towards a circular economy in this sector as well”, she says. In her view, it is important not only to consider the energy consumption of the technologies themselves, but the entire infrastructure that is used, including production materials, networks and “energy-guzzling” data centres.
Guaranteeing fundamental rights
Like Tudorache, van Sparrentak is a member of the Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age. She is impressed by the European Commission’s proposals. “There are some good things in there, such as first steps towards a ban on biometric surveillance and social credit systems.” But she can still see a few legal loopholes. “If we want to guarantee fundamental rights in the realm of privacy, the last thing you want is have broad exceptions, as we see now for the ban on biometric surveillance.”
The EU has everything needed to ultimately become world leader in this area, “based on our European values”, van Sparrentak expects. In her view, “ethical AI, gender equality, anti-racism and the prevention of bias” have a central role to play. “Algorithms need to be safe and transparent and work for us and not against us.” For high-risk applications, the European Parliament is calling for a compulsory ethical check, which van Sparrentak is very much in favour of.
Invest in applications to achieve environmental targets, use data to reduce energy consumption, or consider the development of systems that use AI for improving treatment plans in healthcare.Kim van Sparrentak, Member of the European Parliament - GroenLinks
AI for green innovations and healthcare
When it comes to AI applications, van Sparrentak advocates targeted innovation. “Invest in applications to achieve environmental targets, use data to reduce energy consumption, or consider the development of systems that use AI for improving treatment plans in healthcare.” In the latter case, AI has the potential to make it easier to identify differences between patients, for example. “Things still tend to be based on a standard 40-year-old white male – AI allows us to differentiate and provide better treatment.”