Google's AI Search Result Uses 10X More Energy Than Normal Search Result

Rohit Kulkarni

Rohit Kulkarni

Jul 05, 2024

When it comes to the realm of generative general artificial intelligence, it seems that every company is in a race to push their large-language modelling algorithms as a brilliant innovation in the space.

When Search Engine Becomes Energy Guzzler

This includes the likes of Alphabet, whose primary tool (and originally namesake) was a genuinely revolutionary search engine that became so ubiquitous that the company seemingly had no choice but to completely eviscerate everything good about it in order to keep making an even more absurd profit.

One notable point is that not only are such scams bad for the user experiences, they are also bad for the environment.

As per the Alex de Vries, the founder of Digiconomist, every time one searches for something like “how many rocks should I eat” and Google’s AI “snapshot” tells you “at least one small rock per day,” you’re consuming approximately three watt-hours of electricity.

Digiconomist is a research company which is into the exploration of the unintended consequences of digital trends. That’s ten times the power consumption of a traditional Google search, and roughly equivalent to the amount of power used when talking for an hour on a home phone. (Remember those?)

As per the founder, adding AI-generated answers to all Google searches could easily consume as much electricity as the country of Ireland.

The Cost of “Smart” Searches

All just so that Google AI can go tell you about the nutritional value of eating rocks every day.

The kind of energy that a simple benign search demands is almost absolutely absurd.

Substantial amounts of water are consumed by these facilities while trying to cool off their servers. These servers are often located in places where land is cheap — like deserts.

Even though 20% of servers draw water “from moderately to highly stressed watersheds”, only a handful of them report their water usage.

As per one paper, in coming years, the demand of water for these data centres could be half that of the United Kingdom.

However, none of this is particularly surprising especially in the light of similar environmental impacts of other recent web3 trends like cryptocurrency and NFTs. Despite the knowledge of this, it is frustrating, given the fact that the last decade has seen consistent record-breaking rises in global temperatures. 

Societies of today are now trying to figure out ways to transition their energy grids to less-carbon-intensive energy sources.

Rohit Kulkarni
Rohit Kulkarni
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