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GEAB 186

The monthly bulletin of LEAP (European Laboratory of Political Anticipation) - 15 Jun 2024
Free excerpt

The remarkable speed of generative AI tools is one of their most striking features. Anyone who has used ChatGPT or similar tools, whether for business or leisure, cannot help but be impressed by their rapid execution.

This speed masks another: the rapidity of the rise of generative AI which has reignited the notion of infinite growth and the energy consumption that sustains it. Within just one year, from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023, the public launch of ChatGPT prompted Microsoft to radically revise its energy transition plan upon discovering that its greenhouse gas emissions were 30% higher than forecast. As a result, industrial giants, both nation-states and corporations, who had only just begun to seriously consider this transition, have already set it aside. Digital technology is far from immaterial; seeing Data as an infinite growth potential has direct and, above all, immediate consequences for our consumption of natural resources, via our Data Centres.

Therefore, instead of a mere transition, we are experiencing an acceleration, with a risky deviation from our intended course. In economic, social and technological terms, the watchword imposed by the Big Tech giants and aligned political decision-makers is to rush ahead, disregarding crucial scrutiny of our increasingly unavoidable consumption model in public discourse. And with good reason: if this questioning was necessary, it was because it was needed. This scrutiny is imperative due to the unsustainable strain on resources imposed by our current trajectory. This prompts a provocative question: Will the needs of AI cannibalize those of humanity?

At the same time, on the political front, there is a growing cry for a reexamination. This is one of the lessons to be learned from the European elections. We have to realise that on a European scale, the extreme right, sovereigntists, populists and identitarians now represent the third largest political force in the European Parliament. As a result, the integration project is clearly challenged by citizens who no longer wholeheartedly support it, all the more so if we take into account the abstention rates. This sentiment is starting to resonate with national political leaders, such as the French President who has chosen to dissolve the National Assembly, and others who, more discreetly, are putting national interests back at the top of their priorities. This trend is of course threatening the European project, but not Planet Brussels, which does not seem to be affected by this questioning and continues to turn on its own, even speeding up by setting aside its ecological ambitions and reinforcing its Atlanticist policy.

Above all, this acceleration is reflected in the reshaping of the geopolitical balance of power. The United States is holding its own thanks to its wealth of natural resources and the technological lead of its industrial giants. The Chinese are in pole position for the next stage, as they are so well equipped in every respect – energy, technology, economics and politics. Europe, on the other hand, is facing major difficulties because of its dependence in these same areas. This fragility makes it vulnerable to foreign investment strategies, with the risk of seeing its strategic assets swallowed by Saudi investments and ending up in the lap of the dollar world: 2025-2029 – The dollar takes over from a weakened euro.

Finally, a transition not to be missed, that of Modi (rather than India), which has just avoided going off the rails: India – Modi in transition mode.

Acceleration and uncertainty make uneasy partners, putting us at risk of veering off course. As we highlighted in our early 2024 trends report, much of the world remains numb in 2024 due to the election-induced wait-and-see attitude. Once elections conclude, this hesitancy dissipates, potentially exacerbating timing issues as the pace of activity resumes. Given that energy concerns underpin these delays, our team has prepared a special issue focusing on our summer forecasts and analyses centred around energy. We hope you find it informative and engaging!

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Contents

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