"What Happened When Climate Deniers Met An AI Chatbot?"

"A study suggests there could be an unexpected upside to ChatGPT's popularity."

"If you’ve heard anything about the relationship between Big Tech and climate change, it’s probably that the data centers that power our online lives use a mind-boggling amount of power. And some of the newest energy hogs on the block are artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT. Some researchers suggest that ChatGPT alone might use as much power as 33,000 U.S. households in a typical day, a number that could balloon as the technology becomes more widespread.

The staggering emissions add to a general tenor of panic driven by headlines about AI stealing jobs, helping students cheat, or, who knows, taking over. Already, some 100 million people use OpenAI’s most famous chatbot on a weekly basis, and even those who don’t use it likely encounter AI-generated content often. But a recent study points to an unexpected upside of that wide reach: Tools like ChatGPT could teach people about climate change, and possibly shift deniers closer to accepting the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is happening and caused by humans.

In a study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison asked people to strike up a climate conversation with GPT-3, a large language model released by OpenAI in 2020. (ChatGPT runs on GPT-3.5 and 4, updated versions of GPT-3). Large language models are trained on vast quantities of data, allowing them to identify patterns to generate text based on what they’ve seen, conversing somewhat like a human would. The study is one of the first to analyze GPT-3’s conversations about social issues like climate change and Black Lives Matter. It analyzed the bot’s interactions with more than 3,000 people, mostly in the United States, from across the political spectrum. Roughly a quarter of them came into the study with doubts about established climate science, and they tended to come away from their chatbot conversations a little more supportive of the scientific consensus."

Kate Yoder reports for Grist February 1, 2024.


Source: Grist, 02/02/2024