Artificial intelligence will show how humans can become smarter.

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The Seattle area is in the race for artificial intelligence dominance.

The latest evidence comes from Amazon, which plans to invest more than $150 billion over the next 15 years in data centers around the world.

Data centers consist of computer systems and related components, but they have evolved since their beginnings in the 1940s. They expanded before the new century with the expansion of the Internet during the dot-com years and have become even more important in the era of cloud computing.

Much of the importance of data centers today comes from AI.

A race is on between the biggest players in technology as well as start-ups to capitalize on the rapid growth in demand for artificial intelligence applications. These include the needs of corporations, government and individual users (for example, television streaming companies such as Netflix use AI).

Headquartered in Seattle, Amazon holds the largest market share in the cloud computing market, nearly double that of its closest competitor, Microsoft.

“We’re ramping up capacity quite a bit,” Kevin Miller, Amazon Web Services vice president who oversees the company’s data centers, told Bloomberg. “I think it just gives us the ability to get closer to customers.”

Amazon Web Services, founded in 2002, is the company’s unit that handles cloud computing among other areas of Amazon’s business.

Amazon’s investment comes after spending on data centers fell last year – for the first time ever – while Microsoft increased its spending.

Plans call for expanding existing Amazon server hubs in northern Virginia (closer to customers like the Pentagon and other federal customers) and Oregon. Amazon also plans to expand to new locations such as metropolitan Phoenix, Texas, Mississippi, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

Amazon’s proposed investment in data centers is probably more than that of Microsoft or Alphabet (Google’s parent). None of these companies release their data center investments as consistently as Amazon.

The company is accelerating the AI ​​”arms race” in other ways, such as a $2.75 billion investment in Anthropic, an AI startup based in San Francisco. This brings Amazon’s total stake in Anthropic to $4 billion. Meanwhile, Google has agreed to pour $2 billion into the startup.

The local startup scene is also benefiting from the appetite for artificial intelligence. Seattle’s Read AI secured $21 million in new funding from Madrona Venture Group and Goodwater Capital, according to GeekWire, a tech website. Read AI also provides services for Microsoft.

Read AI uses artificial intelligence to provide users with productivity tools such as meeting notes, chat and email summaries, as well as transcription in multiple languages.

David Autor, an MIT economist best known for studying the effects of the digital revolution and the offshoring of jobs on workers and wages, now hopes for an AI.

“AI, if used well, could help restore the middle-skill, middle-class heart of the American labor market that has been hollowed out by automation and globalization,” he wrote in Noema magazine. ”

He is looking at “production” artificial intelligence, capable of delivering videos, text, images and other data.

According to the New York Times, the author “downplays the possibility that AI can completely replace human judgment. And he sees demand for health care, software, education and legal advice as nearly limitless, so Lower costs will expand these sectors as their products and services become widely affordable.

This contradicts other experts. This past year, Goldman Sachs produced a report that claimed that creative AI could automate activities equivalent to 300 million full-time jobs worldwide.

Data centers present problems as well as advantages. For example, they use a lot of water to avoid overheating, failure or fire. A study by Virginia Tech found that data centers are among the top water-using industries in the country.

It’s a dangerous situation for places like Arizona, where the Phoenix suburb of Mesa has staked much of its economic future on these server farms.

“You have to think about how much of the western United States is water stressed,” Landon Marston, a professor of water resources engineering at Virginia Tech and one of the study’s authors, told The Washington Post.

For example, California has at least 239 data centers, and Arizona has at least 49. Both rely heavily on the drought-prone Colorado River.

Data centers can also suffer from poor design, lack of space for expansion and heavy energy consumption. The latter is a problem for Amazon data centers in Oregon and Virginia, where efficiency is emphasized because of the centers’ power demands.

Late this past month, protesters blockaded Amazon’s corporate headquarters, demanding that the company distance itself from using natural gas coming from Canada through a new pipeline to the Pacific Northwest.

According to the Wall Street Journal, AI’s power demand will soon surpass all electric vehicle needs.

It will draw more attention to Amazon’s commitment to use renewable energy for all of its operations by next year.

I’ve written before about AI as in some of the “Terminator” movies, but also how Seattle is a major AI hub. Will AI be used for good or evil? If you look at human history, maybe the answer is both.

Elon Musk worries about the 20 percent chance that AI will destroy humanity. Still, he says it’s worth the risk.

The reality is that artificial intelligence is an uncharted country (to meet Shakespeare).

It has the potential to create jobs, create new companies and industries, change the way wars are fought, increase productivity, work in education and transform health care and the media.

This column is currently being written by a human.

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