Re: Tragedy of the commons
190000kWh is a staggering amount of energy...
It really isn't. Over a year i.e. the period by which emissions and energy consumption tend to be measured, that's 520Wh per day i.e. really not much at all. While I agree that GPT-3 may be of limited benefit, that doesn't detract from my original point.
...that doesn't produce anything tangible.
If all scientific endeavour had to produce something tangible to be worth doing, we'd still be living in caves. GPT-3 and other such projects are attempting to advance the start of the art in AI. Personally I still think there's a long, long way to go before AI fulfills the "I" part, but that's irrelevant.
I've read an estimate that data centres account for 3% of global emissions - the same as air travel
And you acuse me of tragedy of the commons. You're conflating two entirely different energy uses, taking what's a currently a non-essential ecological demon (air travel) and comparing it with an essential underpinning of our daily lives. Apples to oranges.
Yes, data centres may well account for 3% of global emissions (citation please), there are a lot of them, and most of our modern life is supported by those things. Probably you wouldn't be able to interact with el Reg were it not for data centres.
Whether / how much our lives are improved by data centres, and our data-centric existence in general, is a different philosophical debate.