AI For The Greater Good | Sustainable Applications of Modern Day Technology

 

 

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has been met with much uncertainty – especially from the perspective of environmentalists who fear the impact of further technological evolution on our already overburdened planet. A series of tech companies have, however, harnessed the power of AI for good, introducing novel, sustainable solutions to issues like climate change and pollution.

 

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A period of scientific and technological innovation, the First Industrial Revolution – dating back to the mid 18th century in colonial Europe and the United States – was also marked by its simultaneous environmental impact. In combination with the technological pursuit that followed in its midst, the industrial revolution wrought havoc on the environment and has since been linked to the early onset of climate change – carbon (as well as other greenhouse gas) emissions increased exponentially due to an excess burning of coals; habitats were cleared at an increasingly rampant pace to make room for innovation, as well as in the name of vicious colonial conquest; natural resources were used up faster than ever before.

 

In many ways, the initial moon of technology is responsible for our catastrophic state – reflections of which can be seen in the extreme weather patterns of modern day; 50 million acres of Australia engulfed in unforgiving flames; severe droughts in Thailand; record-high heat waves across the board. However, somewhat ironically, it is through technological innovation – the same innovation that contributed to the ruin of our environment in the first place – that we now intend to undo some of the harm brought upon the environment as a result of our demented progress.

 

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) – which has, rightfully so, been met with conflicting feelings of hope and despair – has paved the way for a series of unconventional solutions to issues of modern day – for example, how to sequester some of that CO2 which hangs around in our atmosphere; or where to store some of the millions of tonnes of plastic we throw away each year? 

 

AI can be harnessed in a wide range of situations and sectors to address mounting environmental concerns. Applications are varied – ranging from programs that monitor levels of CO2 or biodiversity, to programs that actively sequester CO2 from the environment. We will review some of these applications below, as well as the remarkable companies working to achieve these sustainable solutions.

 

 
 
 
 

MAPMORTAR

Guided by a vision of a world where buildings benefit both people and the planet, MapMortar – a real estate company prioritizing the decarbonization of existing buildings – acknowledges the critical state of our current architectural pursuits. Currently, buildings are responsible for over 40% of carbon emissions globally – more than every single car, plane, and train on the planet. This, compounded by the fact that 80% of the buildings that will be standing in 2050 already have been built, led the MapMortar team to address carbon use and emissions in pre-existing architectural structures.  

Through a virtual modeling and simulation platform, created by the MapMortar team, decarbonisation retrofit can be digitized and planned more accurately and effectively than ever before. The produced digital audits allow for a speedy transition, providing organizations with revised plans for entire real estate portfolios in mere minutes. The goal is to actively implement carbon reduction measures in pre-existing buildings, so as to reduce the carbon footprint of our architectural endeavors quickly and affordably.

 

GREYPARROT

Greyparrot was founded in 2019 in response to the unfolding, unrelenting global waste crisis. Acknowledging that millions of tonnes of the waste sent to landfills or destroyed are valuable resources, the company seeks to reclaim and reuse as many of these resources as is possible. Through AI computer visions deployed across global recycling facilities, Greyparrot can identify and categorize waste objects at a large scale. Data is sent to a live waste analytics dashboard, a unique visibility which enables facility operators to more effectively track and sort materials into their respective categories. 

Insights from the waste analytics platform are likely to increase the recovery of materials by 10 to 20%, with 10 billion waste objects having already been successfully processed. Currently, the platform can recognize about 50 material categories, a number expected to double within the year.

 

AGROSCOUT

An agricultural intelligence company, AgroScout is dedicated to a world where food can be grown more sustainably. A digital platform monitors crop development in real-time, based on a series of autonomous air, ground, and satellite vision systems. AI algorithms analyze these visualizations, allowing for a hastened detection of potential complications – for example, crop disease. As such, the technology almost works as a sort of crop disease dashboard, allowing diseases to be identified and dealt with in their earlier stages of development, before too much of the crop has been affected. In addition to improving overall crop yields and increasing profit, this AI solution allows for a reduction in pesticide use, since issues can be recognized and addressed immediately and proactive measures – in the form of toxic chemicals – can be forgone.

 
 
 
 

 

The work of companies like MapMortar, Greyparrot, and AgroScout are only just a few of the many exciting applications of AI technology for the greater good. It seems, then, that AI and technology – although damaging in their own right – are simultaneously paving the way for more sustainable approaches to everyday life.

 

 
 

Highlight Image:
@ Unsplash, Noah Buscher

+ Words:
Tori Palone
Luxiders Magazine