Climate (AI)ction

Eric Benson
5 min readJul 27, 2023
Image made in Midjourney with the prompt “solar power and green fields and ai — ar 7:4”

I have been hoping to write about design, the environment, and science fiction for quite a long while, and the recent explosion of AI in our design software and daily life has provided an immediate opportunity to do so. So, thank you science.

After reading countless articles about industry adoption of AI, it is quite clear that Artificial Intelligence is a tool that is here to stay. From a design industry perspective, AI is now being deployed in all forms of creative software from Adobe to Figma. In fact, AI has been very present in our creative toolbox for years aiding us in better photography on our smartphones, helping to correct our grammar, voice-to-text, and more. With recent launches of powerful AI tools like ChatGPT (OpenAI), Dall-e (OpenAI), Midjourney, Adobe Firefly, Diagram, and Galileo countless concerned conversations around how AI will harm or help design and designers are prevalent at conferences, classrooms, and studios.

  • Will AI replace designers? Will the design process become devalued?
  • Will how fast something is created be more important than a good idea?
  • Is it ethical to use AI image creators as they appropriate copyrighted work?
  • How can we ethically teach design with AI?

The answers to these questions are still unfolding as we gradually use these new tools, however, a simple answer may be a “yes” to some and a “maybe” to others. Designers need to adapt to AI and be creative in how they adapt to AI. We’ve done so before and will again. I am not in despair yet about AI replacing my job as a designer. The World Economic Forum “estimated that AI will replace some 85 million jobs by 2025. The same report, however, concluded that some 97 million new jobs would be created in the same timeframe due to AI.”

What worries me

“AI seems destined to play a dual role. On the one hand, it can help reduce the effects of the climate crisis, such as in smart grid design, developing low-emission infrastructure, and modeling climate change predictions. On the other hand, AI is itself a significant emitter of carbon.” (Vinuesa, Azizpour, Leite,et al)

What I am worried about is how AI will help or harm our slow march to mitigate the worst of climate change. Currently, there are likely millions…

--

--

Eric Benson

Associate Professor and Chair of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Co-founder of Re-nourish & Fresh Press Agri-Fiber Paper Lab.