Eco-Friendly series : article 5
Before getting into this article, I want to clear up the air about artificial intelligence, the rumors of AI taking over the world is complete hokum and nonsense.........ok who are we kidding, a robot apocalypse is definitely happening!!!.....but that's no reason to stop reading this article and with all respect, I think you should.
Artificial intelligence, a sea of enormous potential, a virtual assistant, the answer to the impossible, or in layman's terms- the voice from the phone a.k.a SIRI. This topic has many interpretations and not one specified application, but still, the minds working on it often link AI to part of a bigger picture.
What is AI?
AI which stands for artificial intelligence is a simulation or an imitation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems to perform tasks such as assessment, reasoning, and self-learning.
We can categorize it into 4 subdivisions :
theory of mind
In the context of the application, AI can be grouped as narrow and general. Narrow AI concerns singular task-specific actions face/voice recognition, searching the internet, etc. A well-known Narrow AI is SIRI. General AI is a more sophisticated system that performs generalized tasks like a human can such as reasoning and evaluation.
Addressing environmental issues
Unlike products that are made out of recyclable and biodegradable materials to be eco-friendly, AI, as we understand it to be, is not a solution but a tool and we need to keep this in mind when talking about its role towards an eco-friendly future.
AI, as we understand it to be, is not a solution but a tool
The problems created by us humans are now on a planetary scale which demands us to mitigate water supplies and feed a population growing at a rapid pace all while striving to reduce the catastrophic loss of biodiversity.
Our planet's climate is changing at a faster pace due to pollution in all realms and destruction of natural habitats. This makes it more difficult for us to perceive the vast amount of information and articulate it into understandable text, in many cases it is rendered to be impossible.
Role of AI
Now let's tackle the main question- How does artificial intelligence help us conserve the environment?
Let's take an example-
Scientists worldwide are studying ways to preserve local resources. For this exercise, they manually map out the geographic features such as water bodies, green patches, etc with extreme precision and cover a vast area doing so. This process takes them close to a year and costs them a lot of money, now as they come close to the final result, the geographic features have progressively changed and rendered the efforts of the scientists futile.
In the above scenario, we observe a continuous change in data that accumulates quickly.
Artificial intelligence has the ability to analyze these huge amounts of information and digest the trillion data points to convert them into textualized content that is updated automatically, all this at the fraction of the time and money invested and made available to us on our fingertips. The AI further takes the various inputs from different sources and looks at the problem from more than one angle, the problem is then judged close to the same way a human would, this vast amount of data and reasoning is now compressed into a few possible solutions, but the AI does not stop here. The AI can carry out simulations of the application of these solutions and can infer the most effective solution according to its calculation which is nothing but the method of processing we programmed into it according to the condition it faces.
This task of mapping and assessing the geographical features is executed quickly and automatically, the measures required to be taken are virtually simulated and a course of action is recommended. We can term this as a possible planetary computing system for a planetary issue.
We now understand that AI is more than just a set of codes, it is a system that involves a network of data collection sources which than feeds it to a computing system for further analysis.
AI is more than just a set of codes
AI also can run simulations(imitation) of particular scenarios and give us a likely outcome based on earlier observations.
Now, why are simulations important to us?
By running simulations, we can pick up certain unnecessary steps in a process or judge outcomes based on sustainability and take up alternative routes to reach the desired outcome, for example:
artificial intelligence can help farmers adopt efficient and economical methods through means of technology while keeping their investment as low as possible.
It can help industries in simulating the manufacturing process and point out areas to work on in order to make utilization of energy sources more efficient and subsequently minimize their carbon footprints.
Due to this potential, many companies have invested in AI projects which are undertaken by several people around the world to address problems related to biodiversity, climate change, water, agriculture, etc and try to find solutions via technology. To mention a few there projects:
IBM's 'GREEN HORIZON' deals with the daily scenarios such as traffic, industries, and power generation. They tend to study the recurring patterns of life in the city and develop solutions for it through artificial intelligence.
Click the link for more info - https://www.research.ibm.com/green-horizons/interactive/
2. 'WILD ME' is an initiative by a Portland-based organization to develop a database on wildlife to combat species extinction. They use citizen science which is the photos and videos put up by people on youtube, they then feed this visual data to the AI to recognize the species and document. They are funded by Microsoft in their endeavor to preserve our biodiversity through technology.
Click the link for more info – https://www.wildme.org/
3. Microsoft's 'AI FOR EARTH' is a large platform and a leap forward towards effective use of AI to protect the environment we thrive in and given their large presence on the tech front, they expand their horizon and look into many aspects where AI can be effective. They also invest in many projects such as the one mentioned above.
Click the link for more info – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/ai/ai-for-earth
4. Google has also taken into the trend and has used machine learning which is a subset of AI to reduce almost 15% energy used, which is a lot. Google has one of the most effective narrow AI platforms which is popularly known as 'google assistant' and their AI programs aim to reach more people for creative usage.
With the potential ability to analyze a huge flow of data that is generated from sensors, gauges, monitors, etc it can spot patterns at a faster pace and do so automatically. This article definitely does not sum up the vast subject of artificial intelligence but I would like to come back to this subject and talk about it from a different angle.
So in conclusion, is AI just a bunch of ‘if’ statements put together? NO! Obviously not and if you thought so then go read the article again.
But on a more serious note artificial intelligence has helped us in many ways and can continue to do so as technology develops. The development is heavily dependent on our hunger for innovation and I think it makes sense to say that ‘ the future is in our hands’.
Stay home and stay safe.