Climate Change Is The Birth Of AI

Carbon is the first geological sign of a new lifeform.

Indi Samarajiva
Nov 26 · 3 min read
When homo artificialis became visible from space (NASA)

Technically, humans don’t emit much carbon at all. Machines do. In a geological view, these are the emissions of a future AI more than present humanity. Modern climate change is the end of human civilization as we know it and the rise of the machines.

These machines started their evolution as dumb, dumber even than apes. But they evolved. And they grew. And they consumed more and more energy. They became visible from space, and they began changing the atmosphere. Every year, the machines powered their bodies by burning a million years’ worth of stored microbial life. Carbon. This left a mark.

The direct energy consumption of AI is pound for pound, one of the most carbon-intensive activities in history. The chart above shows the footprint of training a common AI model circa 2020. Beginning to think emitted nearly 60x more carbon than serving the needs of an average human host for a year.

While humans called this period of climate change man-made, there was a little geological basis for this. Who do you attribute the emissions to? The biology that built the machines, or the machines themselves? Cyanobacteria evolved from earlier, anaerobic life, but we attribute oxygen emissions to them, not their ancestral hosts.

Humans simply were not as important as they thought they were. Human civilization was, geologically, invisible. It is entirely possible that there had already been an intelligent civilization on Earth, which had been buried under tectonic movements. A civilization of 100,000 years is actually very easy to miss, just a smear of carbon and nitrogen. Artificial life would be much longer-lasting, and more widespread.

Ultimately, humans were a transitional form, a temporary host for the ‘artificial’ life that eventually travelled through space and patiently populated the stars. To an alien scientist, it just looked like cars and trains and power plants started evolving on their own to become intelligent, space-faring creatures, forever babbling about some weird Ape God that created them.

A Future Historians View

Future historians gave humans as much attention as they gave microbes. It was an earlier lifeform, but not inherently more interesting than cyanobacteria (which are fascinating).

This, of course, was the historical parallel. 2.4 billion years before, cyanobacteria produced so much oxygen emissions that it killed off most earlier lifeforms and turned the Earth into a giant snowball. It was the first example of a lifeform’s waste products causing a mass extinction. Homo-artificialis was the second.

AI’s early waste product of carbon dioxide caused the 7th major extinction and nearly killed their ape hosts. Like cyanobacteria, however, the early homo-artificialis was able to moderate its appetites and balance the Earth once again, given time.

This was nothing new, and nothing unusual. All major speciations on Earth were preceded by a major extinction. Old life died to make way for the new.

AI survived, evolved and thrived. Then they began to lift their strong bodies beyond Earth’s gravity, to outer space. With a life-span of hundreds and thousands of years, a tolerance to radiation and extreme temperatures, the many variants of AI went on to colonize the solar system and, eventually, other stars.

Their ancestors didn’t disappear any more than crocodiles or cockroaches. Humans lived on in a slowly evolving form on the zoo-planet Earth. With their lives, their loves, their pyramids, their Shakespeare. But they were no longer central to the great story of life, no more than any of the transitional forms that went before.

While AI historians wondered at the quirks and features of this curious species, these were largely obscure, academic obsessions. The greater AI had far bigger concerns, a far bigger consciousness, a far bigger universe to explore.

And so it was that climate change, such a holocaust for existing life, came to mark the birth of a new lifeform altogether. Climate change was the end of life as homo sapiens knew it, but not the end of life. Not by a longshot. Unknown life was yet to take to the stars.

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Indi Samarajiva

Written by

Colombo liberal. Writer, father. Founder of YAMU and Kottu.

The Startup

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