Training OpenAI’s giant GPT-3 text-generating model is akin to driving a car to the Moon and back, computer scientists reckon.
More specifically, they estimated teaching the neural super-network in a Microsoft data center using Nvidia GPUs required roughly 190,000 kWh, which using the average carbon intensity of America would have produced 85,000 kg of CO2 equivalents, the same amount produced by a new car in Europe driving 700,000 km, or 435,000 miles, which is about twice the distance between Earth and the Moon, some 480,000 miles. Phew.
This assumes the data-center used to train GPT-3 was fully reliant on fossil fuels, which may not be true. The point, from what we can tell, is not that GPT-3 and its Azure cloud in particular have this exact scale of carbon footprint, it’s to draw attention to the large amount of energy required to train state-of-the-art neural networks.
The eggheads who produced this guesstimate are based at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and are also behind an open-source tool called Carbontracker, which aims to predict the carbon footprint of AI algorithms. Lasse Wolff Anthony, one of Carbontracker’s creators and co-author of a study of the subject of AI power usage, believes this drain on resources is something the community should start thinking about now, as the energy costs of AI have risen 300,000-fold between 2012 and 2018, it is claimed.