Artificial Intelligence

Sustainable AI Lab at Bonn University launched

8. November 2021, 14:30 Uhr | Tobias Schlichtmeier
Prof. Dr. Aimee van Wynsberghe
Prof. Dr. Aimee van Wynsberghe is Humboldt Professor and Director of the Sustainable AI Lab at the University of Bonn.
© Guus Schoonewille

AI can be an important tool for sustainable development - for example, by helping to reduce the energy consumption of large factories or predicting natural disasters. However, the applications also have a downside: For example, developing AI models produces CO2 emissions.

Many research publications focus on artificial intelligence (AI) in relation to sustainable development goals. However, there is little research on the often hidden environmental costs of AI. As of now, researchers from the »Sustainable AI Lab« at the University of Bonn are addressing this – at the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, they want to draw attention to the issue with a piece of art. It is intended to remind people how nature works – and that AI can get in the way of this. Prof. Dr. Aimee van Wynsberghe, director of the Sustainable AI Lab, will speak at the conference on November 10th at 11:00 am.

The UN Climate Conference in Glasgow is an opportunity for researchers at the University of Bonn to raise awareness of the environmental issues associated with AI – both in terms of the impact of using AI on climate change, and who will bear the costs. To draw attention to this, the team is collaborating with Dutch artist Roosmarijn Pallandt.

The artwork »Lights sounds air«

Every evening, when the delegations have departed, the entire site of the UN Climate Conference will be immersed in a sound composition made up of the vibrations of plants and trees – they extract CO2 from the atmosphere and turn light into oxygen. The art installation is made possible by recording the sounds of plants and trees »at work« with the help of special microphones.

»The artwork brings us closer to nature and makes us think about how much AI is limiting nature's ability to heal itself. Artists' creativity helps us identify new areas of research and think outside our usual patterns,« von Wynsberghe said.

Officially launching Nov. 25th, 2021, the Sustainable AI Lab aims to be a place where researchers from different disciplines collaborate and conduct research on the environmental, social and economic costs of designing, developing and using AI in society. The questions to be explored span multiple disciplines and levels of analysis; research will explore, for example:

  • Justify the value of sustainability of AI,
  • draw out the strength of the concept of sustainability,
  • measure environmental costs of AI,
  • understand the impact of AI on generations, and
  • create guidelines for policy, to develop environmentally friendly, appropriate and sustainable use of AI.

Together, the team is working to strengthen Germany as a recognized center for research in AI ethics.

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