• Logo Doors of Perception (print)

    Logo alleen voor print

Beyond Calculation: AI and Sustainability

New development paradigm

We need to ask, first: What are the social and ecological objectives of development? and, within that framework, How can AI help us achieve them?

For me, “new development paradigm” means development that helps all of life thrive – not just human life. It means: Enable natural systems to endure. It means: Beneficial relations between ecosystems.

How would AI help us achieve this?

I believe that AI – used together with science, design, and art – can be a medium of experience and learning that can help us realise that nature, and the economy, are not two different places. Everything in the living world is connected

AI can support a learning process that re-awakens our capacity for ecological thinking – and help us “see” the life that surrounds us – but invisibly.

There are positive developments along these lines in the worlds of AI and Machine Learning.

In 2019, Machine Learning heavyweights from GoogleAI, Deep Mind, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, ETH Zurich and others published this 111-page report “Tackling Climate Change With Machine Learning”.

Their report included a comprehensive list list of “Climate change solution domains” . These range from remote sensing, to the rededsign of financial markets.

It’s a long list, but one theme united these experts: If we’re going to manage the climate crisis – if we’re going to find “solutions” – then we need more data” !

Global demand for environmental data was supercharged two weeks ago at COP26 in Scotland.

Mark Carney announced that 130 trillion dollars in climate finance commitments had been promised by various financial actors. The mysterious acronyms he used disguise a lot disagreement about what counts as climate finance, what the money is for, and who gets to spend it.

But Carney made one point clear in plain language: this money would prove hard to distribute in the absence of metrics and verification.

Carney’s announcement can only increase the search for climate disclosure metrics. A.I. is being promoted as a global observation platform that monitors ecosystem health at multiple scales – from the planetary, to the microscopic.

Planet Labs, on a larger scale, have deployed a swarm of Earth-observing satellites that can monitor every forest, every tree, and every city block, everywhere on Earth, on a daily basis.

This real-time ecological dashboard, say Planet, can enable forest managers to see the signs of deforestation as they are occurring – as opposed to long after.

Its satellites can also spot but also detect the precursors of deforestation they say – such as the establishment of illegal roads that tend to appear before trees are illegally harvested.

Another big project, Microsoft’s AI For Earth, give people the power to make accurate climate predictions using artificial intelligence tools.

In England, researchers at Exeter University are training AI systems to classify all this raw data – from sensors on the ground, in the sky, or in space.

Integrating data and information from multiple, inter-related, sources, they claim, affords better understanding of complex interactions between the climate, natural ecosystems, human systems, the economy, and health.

In Switzerland, the Crowther Lab has launched an open data platform, Restor, that connects everyone, everywhere, to local restoration.

Restor connects people to scientific data, supply chains, funding – and each other – to increase the impact, scale, and sustainability of restoration efforts.

“We believe that anyone can be a restoration champion” they say, “ including you”

Bird research is also being transformed by Artificial Intelligence. The BirdNET platform, for example, combines bioacoustics with an AI based algorithm to automate bird species recognition from acoustic data.

Citizen science has radically expanded the scale of data collection: birdwatchers have contributed than 140 million observations

In Germany they use eDNA metabarcoding to analyse the health and diversity of insect populations.

This entry was posted in care & health, development & design, most read. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Only shown in print

    Contactinformation John

  • All Blog Posts