Artifical Intelligence and Climate Change

Quoted from: Couillet, Romain, Denis Trystram, and Thierry Ménissier. “The submerged part of the AI-ceberg.” IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, September 2022.

The energy consumption of a single training run of the latest (by 2020) deep neural networks dedicated to natural language processing exceeds 1,000 megawatt-hours (more than a month of computation on today’s most powerful clusters). This corresponds to an electricity bill of more than 100,000 euros (figures in the millions of euros are sometimes found) and 500 tons of CO2 emissions – that is, the carbon footprint equivalent to 500 transatlantic round trips from Paris to New York. In comparison, the human brain consumes in a month about 12 kWh, i.e., a hundred thousand times less, for tasks much more complex than natural language translation. [Read more…]

Hand-Cranked Canal Bridge in London

This London pedestrian bridge is entirely manual, with a hand crank to open it for boat traffic. In the video, the architects also discuss how the haptic feedback provided by hand cranking allows issues to be identified and prevents damage. Thanks to Mathew Lippincott.

No Tech Reader #36

Solar Desalination Skylight

“You hand pump seawater or polluted water into a bowl. Throughout the day the energy from the sun heats up this water and, instead of evaporating into the atmosphere, it gets trapped in the top section. All the fresh water will then trickle down into this bottom basin and all the impurities of the salt and polluted water stay behind. You’re going to have a left-over salt brine which is going to be a waste resource, but instead of throwing it away, this salt brine goes into the series of seawater batteries around the perimeter that can light a LED strip during the night. At night you can turn on the light and you get an energy source through the salt batteries. And during the day, this is like a skylight, bringing natural light to the interiors.”

“The power of the sun is amazing, and I was trying to copy this hydrological cycle. It can kill 99% of dangerous pathogens, remove salt brine and reduce the need of having to boil your water. I am not necessarily reinventing the wheel; solar distillers have been around for a long time, but a lot of these systems are heavy, expensive to make and with very complicated designs. I wanted to think about one which could potentially be portable and simple to construct, made out of local materials and able to Achieve a higher yield of water.”

“This new design was exactly the same but at a large scale. We created a recipe book that is a step-by-step guide on how you can create this same design using bamboo and local work. It could be flat packed into a bag and deployed very simply and quickly and then attached to a bamboo structure which allows structural rigidity but also a community shaded spot, where you can produce around 18 liters of purified water everyday.”

Read more: Low-Tech Solutions for Complex Demands: An Interview with Architect Henry Glogau, ArchDaily. Image by Henry Glogau. Hat tip to Michael.

Praising Collapse

Quoted from: Scott, James C. Against the grain: A deep history of the earliest states. Yale University Press, 2017.

Why deplore “collapse,” when the situation it depicts is most often the disaggregation of a complex, fragile, and typically oppressive state into smaller, decentralized fragments? One simple and not entirely superficial reason why collapse is deplored is that it deprives all those scholars and professionals whose mission it has been to document ancient civilizations of the raw materials they require… There are splendid and instructive documentaries on archaic Greece, Old Kingdom Egypt, and mid-third millennium Uruk, but one will search in vein for a portrayal of the obscure periods that followed them: the “Dark Age” of Greece, the “First Intermediate Period” of Egypt, and the decline of Uruk under the Akkadian Empire. Yet there is a strong case to make that such “vacant” periods represented a bolt for freedom by many state subjects and an improvement in human welfare. [Read more…]

The Lamp of the Eskimo (1898)

Quoted from: Hough, Walter. The lamp of the Eskimo. US Government Printing Office, 1898.

Though the Eskimo live at a temperature of zero Fahrenheit, travelers have noticed their idiosyncrasy with regard to cold. The clothing is designedly left open at intervals around the waist and the bare skin exposed to the cold air. As a rule the Eskimo strip when in the house and sleep naked. Another indication of their feverishness is the consumption of great (quantities of ice-cold water. No explorer has failed to notice the Eskimo lamp, around which the whole domestic life of this people seems to focus. Far more remarkable than being the unique possessors of the lamp in the Western Hemisphere, the Eskimo presents the spectacle of a people depending for their very existence upon this household belonging. Indeed, it is a startling conclusion that the lamp has determined the occupancy of an otherwise uninhabitable region by the Eskimo, or, in other words, the distribution of a race. [Read more…]