In April of this year, Google announced that it is taking the next step in making its data centers greener and cleaner. The company indicates that it has been carbon-neutral since 2007, and it has covered its energy consumption with 100% renewables since 2017.
Many large corporations have undertaken similar commitments, covering the equivalent of their total electricity use with renewable energy from Power Purchase Agreements (PPSa). These PPAs match their total electricity consumption to the output of a new “additional” renewable facility built on their behalf. However, only the total volumes match, not the actual physical flows of power. For example, if a company were to offset its 100 megawatthours (MWh) of consumption with 100 MWh produced by a solar facility, then at times unused surplus solar would be sold into the market while at other moments (nights, for example) the company would be buying system power from the grid at whatever carbon intensity the grid was offering at that moment.
Clear canals in Venice and blue skies in Delhi: around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown is cleansing our planet of its usual levels of pollution and bringing us instead time to appreciate nature closeby. Thanks to new restrictions’ severe limitations on travel and industrial activity, our daily carbon emissions are seen to have fallen by 17% during the peak of confinement measures in early April, when compared to that of mean levels seen in 2019. Though these statistics bear a false sense of security, we must avoid being distracted from the pressing circumstances of today’s environmental crisis in which wider changes need to be made. As elements of lockdown ease and we prepare for a return to ‘business as usual’, the pressure to revive the economy risks accelerating at the expense of positive change made so far. Making green decisions remains as, if not more crucial. Environmental accountability is an essential selling point for any business or organisation in the modern-day, and a field Verne Global is committed to.
NVIDIA’s GTC going virtual in February was the main attraction for the rest of the HPC show industry. My industry event calendar has been replaced by an endless stream of Zoom-like briefings and webinars. Three months after Covid-19 disrupted the HPC industry some patterns are emerging. Businesses with a remote working, gaming, telemedicine, home delivery or drug discovery component are booming. My neighbor sells a cloud-based telemedicine solution and he’s been glued in his home office twelve hours a day, 6 days a week attempting to keep abreast of the demand.
I recently revisited Bristol, UK for an AI and HPC Meetup hosted at Graphcore’s HQ where they design the wicked powerful IPU CPU accelerator. There were three excellent presentations and the one by Helen Byrne, AI Research Engineer at Graphcore, about their 2020 research focus reiterated that my mathematics skills were well and truly rusty.
As a late sign-up for the recent HPC & AI Meetup in Bristol, I was feeling relaxed coming in without a speaking slot and only the objective of meeting some colleagues and hearing a few lightning talks. Well, all that changed with two minutes from the start when our MC for the night, Verne Global's fabulous Simone Warren, told me that I had just been awarded the honour of giving the closing remarks. Her rationale was sound - it was a technical meeting - perhaps the CTO should give the exit speech. Logical indeed, and while I do in fact enjoy a bit of public speaking, I will admit that I do like to over-prepare myself for any speaking role and I knew I was in for a new type of challenge. My mind had to focus in and quit thinking about that Banksy I was looking forward to seeing around the corner from the venue. Little did I know that he was stealthily working in the background on a Valentine's Day surprise.
I was recently in attendance for a rare event in my busy life - a book discussion. Our family is fortunate that our three boys are attending a school that not only challenges its students mentally and physically, but also promotes the engagement of the entire family unit. Our school’s headmaster led an engaging discussion on a book that will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year: Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude Steele who currently serves as Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.
Perhaps it is because I returned from my last business trip of 2019 to a flooded house, but more likely it’s all the wicked cool water-cooled equipment that I encountered at SC-19 that I’m in a watery mood!
In my previous blog, which you can check out here, I explored how AI has emerged as a brilliant accessory for environmental conservation. Ultimately, it's the energy resources we choose and the efficiency of their usage that affect our ecosystems. So how can AI tackle the root of the problem? I've been looking into some specific ways AI is strengthening our fight against global warming, as well as how AI consumers can ensure that the maintenance of their technology is as green as it can be.
SC19 was red hot this year as the race to exascale computing got into top gear. Not even the snow on the last afternoon damped the collective ‘exascale enthusiasm’. SC19 is our industry’s exhibition pinnacle and as normal, the weekend before the show opens on Monday evening is packed full of training sessions, briefings, industry updates, etc. that cover everything from the latest HPC and AI product releases and tools, to tours of nearby supercomputing centers.
As I’ve recently discussed in my latest blog post, artificial intelligence operates most efficiently when it is commoditising intelligence and decision making. Simple and repetitive tasks, and later complex and repetitive tasks, will be ‘solved’ through artificial intelligence. While we are starting to see real proof of the scientific and business benefits that come from this streamlining and processing of data, there are moral and ethical discussions beginning to take place.
Since the 2nd December the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) has been taking place in Madrid and next week sees the 10th anniversary of the excellent Sustainable Innovation Forum, organised by Climate Action. The forum is the largest business event alongside the conference and underpins the important role business and technology has in helping accelerate efforts to mitigate climate change. At the forum this year AI will be a major talking point - both in terms of its potential to protect ecosystems, and unfortunately - to damage, unless AI is powered by genuinely green energy.
Last month I moderated an AI disruptor panel at the World Summit AI in Amsterdam. Our conversation covered the moral, economic and practical considerations that need to be taken into account when it comes to the future disruptions AI will bring. As MIT President, L. Rafael Reif, was recently quoted as saying, “Technologies embody the values of those who make them, and the policies we build around them can profoundly shape their impact. Whether the outcome is inclusive or exclusive, fair or laissez-faire, is therefore up to all of us.” While this is true for every new technology, we are entering new territory when it comes to AI. How can your business be prepared for the impact of AI? Let’s take a look at three key elements to successfully making this transition.
Back in 2005 Steve Jobs delivered those two key messages to Stanford University graduates and they struck a chord with me. I’ve kept them front-of-mind throughout my career and they’ve shaped the way I work, as someone who is a customer-led, consultative technology business leader.