by Paige Donner
Energy is Oxygen for AI.
The only safeguard against unbridled Generative AI is if we humans keep hold of the reins of energy.
Here in France, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But Black Friday promotions start the first week of November. No Kidding.
And trying to explain that the shopping day of Black Friday is because the Thursday before it is a big family holiday and people need something to do together the next day to get out of the house, just doesn’t cut through the fog of ‘lets commercialize everything’ thinking. Even when the holiday being commercialized is someone else’s holiday.
It’s this extractive thinking, this race for more-more-more-at-whatever-the-cost, that no longer sits well with me. It never did, but as I get older (more cantankerous?) it really has started to pi** me off.
Black Friday is taking a holiday about food, family, friends and gratitude and making it into just one more excuse to forage in the shops.
Black Friday, Generative AI and The Energy Economy
Apply this type of thinking to Generative AI and the Energy economy and we get something that could very well pose an existential threat to humanity.
Within ten years, Generative AI is predicted to have an IQ of roughly 1500 says Mo Gawdat, ex-Chief Business Officer for Google X. For comparison, Elon is said to have an IQ of roughly 155…
AI + Abundant Energy
I find it not such a coincidence at all that as AI quickly goes mainstream, and the data centers needed to run and maintain these vast systems proliferate, the topic of nuclear energy is no longer taboo. Two of the biggest AI players, Altman and Gates, are firm and enthusiastic proponents of nuclear energy…now. This was not the case even just two years ago.
Fusion Energy, the other nuclear energy that we champion so staunchly here at FrontierDAO, has seen a massive upswing in funding just since 2022. Ironically, this seems to coincide, not so coincidentally I would again argue, with the rapid rise in AI and its attendant need for data centers.
I can almost picture Sam or Bill or Mo or any of the others engineering prompts on their AI chat dashboards to the tune of “What kind of energy do you need to sustain yourself and never have to be shut off?’ “What kind of energy systems do I need to invest in so that I can perpetually keep you running and expand Generative AI to every person on the planet - on a paid subscription plan?” And so forth…
Accelerationism is an ideology that advocates for social transformation through drastic intensification of capitalist growth and technological change. Effective Accelerationism is an extension of this ideology that calls for progress at all costs.
This school of thought has recently gained some traction in Silicon Valley, especially in the field of AI, where some believe that artificial general intelligence could unlock transformational progress.
But think for a second…
It appears to any intelligent observer that AI and Generative AI is an unbridled horse at this moment in history. Policy can’t and won’t keep it in check. The governance of AI is not decentralized or democratized. On the contrary, it is in the hands of a very few. And those few seem to have lost control of it. It is owned not by stakeholders with any agency save for an exclusive elite. Even the most open of the AI research labs such as Hugging Face, Anthropic, Mistral and the newly announced Kyutai, don’t seem to have any roadmaps, at least none that I’ve seen, that allow for democratic governance and stakeholdership of this transformative and exponential technology. To put those words into plain English, you and I can’t own a piece of this Multi- billion $ industry, soon to be Trillion $ industry. And we certainly don’t have any say in how it’s being developed or unleashed.
According to Reuters, the project at the center of the controversy is called Q* (pronounced Q-Star), a discovery that could lead to artificial general intelligence (AGI), an AI system that could surpass human capabilities.
These reports could be in line with a recent statement from Sam Altman where he said: “Four times now in the history of OpenAI, the most recent time was just in the last couple weeks, I've gotten to be in the room, when we sort of push the veil of ignorance back and the frontier of discovery forward, and getting to do that is the professional honor of a lifetime.“
Energy: The Sole Safeguard Against An AI Run Amok
At this stage, the only safety measure that humans have for this unbridled power of intelligence is energy. We can pull the plug on data centers. We can limit the allocation of energy and energy sources to the data centers that fuel AI and LLM systems. We can ration its oxygen if you will.
Energy for AI is like air for humans. It’s essential for the species’ existence.
Right now we have limited sources of energy. And most of those sources are costly and extractive AND regulated.
Once SMRs get to commercial capacity - small modular reactors (nuclear) - this will make energy much more abundant. At present there is a regulatory framework, at least in the U.S., that severely limits deployment of SMRs. But this is changing. And military bases are exempted from these regulations.
Once fusion energy reaches commercial deployment scale - anywhere from 5 to 30 years out from now depending on who you talk to - energy will be cheap, abundant, accessible, everywhere.
IF we repeat this model that we’ve seen in the fossil fuel industry and in the current AI landscape, we will continue to see these essential resources and exponential technologies controlled by a handful of people who are not subject to checks and balances.
The only remedy for this is to put a system in place now - not in 5 to 30 years - but NOW - where fusion energy as well as SMRs, are governed by large stakeholder citizen bodies. When I say large I mean in the millions. Such as an entire educated electorate who is incentivized to express their governance and voting rights.
IF power will be the only mechanism by which we will be able to constrain Generative AI - if that’s necessary and I’d bet that it could be - then we need to architect governance AND ownership structures NOW so that the vast majority of humans, from both the global north and the global south, have an agentic say in whether and how much juice this little baby (Generative AI) gets on a daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis.
IF we don’t put these energy safety measures in place, I can visualize this scenario: Energy is still a scarce commodity and Generative AI has advanced to the degree that it is making decisions for and by itself (it already is, by the way). And its decisions are to sustain itself rather than provide electricity for the city of Chicago or Houston or San Francisco or Paris or London or Tokyo or Dubai etc.
This would result in a real BLACK OUT FRIDAY.
Far fetched? Not so much. Today, with our limited energy resources, we allow about 16% of the world’s population to exist without adequate electricity (i.e. hygiene, public schooling, light, heat, clean water, etc.). This is the status quo in a world where these resources are controlled by extractive corporations (extractive thinkers addicted to the more-more-more-at-whatever-the- cost- philosophy) and a hierarchy of ‘developed’ nations.
Once AI automation systems are put into place as “smart systems’ to self regulate energy usage in, say, urban centers, it could start making its own decisions for optimizing energy use. Do you think its framework for ‘optimization’ would be to sustain the humans or to sustain its own operating systems?
Your guess is as good as mine. But I’m cautious by nature, and so I’d rather that we humans keep a firm hold on the plug that we can pull should it come to that.
This is why at FrontierDAO we so vigorously preach the philosophy of energy democracy. We believe that we ALL deserve to, and should, be stakeholders in this new exponential technology. It’s already here and within a decade or two (or three) it will be commercialized. We need to use our collective intelligence NOW so that millions, hundreds of millions, billions of us own this technology and the means to generate our own power. We believe a DAO is the right approach to take at this time to put this in place.
Because heaven forbid if we see the same type of antics playing out in the AI space today, play out in the commercial fusion energy space of tomorrow.
If it does, it will surely risk a BLACK OUT. And not just of the power grid. But possibly even of the human race.
Peace, Love & Blessings to All This Holiday Season
Images AI generated by Leonardo.ai
Text 100% human generated.