Sustainability in the Era of AI

At our January meeting, we debated the impact of artificial intelligence on sustainability. We discussed the following points:

  • Energy – while companies such as Google have been able to use AI to reduce their energy usage at data centers, this AI has to cost energy to run. As AI becomes more widespread in other applications, raw energy usage could increase.
  • Consumption – as machine learning is used to target ads towards select audiences, this could cause an increase in material consumption. On the manufacturing side, predictive analysis can be used for process improvement, for example reducing water consumption by 10% for General Electric.
  • Cars – a popular application of machine learning is self-driving cars. On one hand, a computer driving would be more efficient, braking less and taking a more optimal route. On the other, the convenience of being able to nap while your car drives you across the country is an undeniable; people maybe be encouraged to take longer trips, increasing gasoline consumption overall.
  • Jobs – whether machines will create more jobs or eliminate them remains to be seen, workers may have to learn new skills in order to adapt to new technologies.

Artificial intelligence promises many benefits, but should be implemented with consideration for potential risks in order to ensure a sustainable future.

Linked below are some articles for further reading:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/nick-seneca-jankel/ai-vs-human-intelligence-_b_6741814.html

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/what-artificial-intelligence-means-sustainability