Green Planet Monitor Podcast


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GPM # 20

In a recent appeal to the world, Canadian AI pioneer Geoffrey Hinton and 180 other leading scientists and luminaries issued a warning about the existential threats to humanity posed by … not climate change, not the demise of Earth’s biosphere … but artificial intelligence.

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI,” their statement reads, “should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

According to other AI practitioners and observers, the prospects of human extinction at the hands of self-reproducing, self-defending generative AI systems and autonomous killer robots are overblown. The scariest things about AI – they warn — are much more mundane.

“Big data increases inequality and threatens democracy,” Cathy O’Neil wrote in her 2016 work, Weapons of Math Destruction.

Then there’s AI’s carbon footprint.

According to a 2019 report in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review magazine, cloud computing is responsible for two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — a larger carbon footprint than the global airline industry. According to a more recent report, ‘training’ a single AI model consumes more energy than a hundred American households.

The GPM spoke with Dylan Baker, a research engineer at the Distributed AI Research Institute.

Listen to our conversation in today’s podcast. Click on the audio box on top, or go here.

Ever wonder what secrets lurk within your personal genetic source code? How much DNA did you inherit from Neanderthals? Perhaps you’re the proud owner of a sports gene!

Hopefully no skeletons in the closet – like the Alzheimer’s allele. Would you want to know? If so, consumer genome kits can oblige, in exchange for a bit of spit.

Listen to this story in today’s podcast, produced in 2013. Click on the audio box on top, or go here.

Update: The US FDA warned 23andMe about marketing health predictive genome testing in 2013. In 2017, the FDA authorized it to market Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s and Hereditary Thrombophilia risk reports. As for National Geographic’s Geno Kits, the Society stopped marketing these in 2019.

National Geographic says, at its website, that it deleted or destroyed DNA data in June 2020, with the exception of info from users who consented to their use for population-related research.

UBC Professor Rosie Redfield checks her genome test results (David Kattenburg)

Their precise scientific name is a mouthful. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. But you don’t want to get them in your mouth.

Hard to avoid. Forever chemicals are in non-stick cookware; greasy food wrap; microwave popcorn bags … even lipstick. They don’t break down, they build up in your body, and they’re very bad for your health.

And, most people have them in their blood! A recent mapping study reports that PFASs are present at high concentrations in thousands of spots across the UK and Europe. A similar exercise was carried out in the US.

Now, a scientific study from California reports nine compounds in the blood of pregnant women and umbilical cords. Jessica Trowbridge is the study’s lead author. Trowbridge is a research scientist in the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California, San Francisco. Here’s more about the program’s research.

Listen to our conversation in today’s podcast. Click on the audio box on top, or go here.

Thanks to Dan Weisenberger for his wonderful guitar instrumentals.