More and more often we talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and all its possible applications to improve or facilitate human activities in different sectors. Thanks to this new and disruptive technology, a “machine” can acquire abilities and senses similar to human ones – such as thinking, learning and dedicating itself to creative projects – in an extremely fast and effective way. By analyzing enormous quantities of data and information, AI becomes an intelligent friend to whom we can delegate complex tasks or a special assistant that can make our daily work more precise and complete.
What if Artificial Intelligence could also help us save the world? Perhaps by finding intelligent solutions to reduce the impact of our social and productive system on the planet thanks to the creation of new business models based on a circular economy and sustainable resource management.
The report “Artificial intelligence for sustainable development” attempted to answer this question, created by the Italian Association for Artificial Intelligence (AIxIA), the Community, Commitment, Service, Volunteering Association (CISV) and the Department of Computer Science from the University of Bari Aldo Moro. A fascinating study, which analyzes the potential of Artificial Intelligence to promote the energy transition, evaluating how its use can allow us to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined in the UN Agenda 2030.
What emerges is an important starting point: AI can contribute in a concrete way to sustainable development, thanks to its ability to evaluate and optimize the resources available, and allow the implementation of new strategies and the design of innovative solutions for the protection of society and the Earth. To demonstrate this, the report takes into consideration, one by one, the sustainable development goals defined by the UN, explaining how Artificial Intelligence can help man achieve them more easily.
Let’s see some examples.
Reduce water waste
Drinking water is an essential good for the life of the world’s population and the survival of ecosystems. Preserving it, allowing correct, responsible and democratic access to water resources is one of the objectives of Agenda 2030 (SDG 6). Artificial Intelligence can contribute to achieving this goal by optimizing water consumption, not only for family use, but also for industrial use; can verify and monitor the quality of the water or carry out predictive maintenance on distribution systems to prevent waste. ConserWater/Boomitra, developed in India, is a water conservation platform that uses satellite data and Artificial Intelligence to help farmers reduce water waste and distribute their water resources adequately and efficiently among different types of crops.
Use clean energy
The production of energy from renewable sources requires the creation of intelligent technologies and distribution networks, capable of optimizing consumption and limiting waste. But not only that: among the UN guidelines (SDG 7), to promote the development of clean and accessible energy, it is considered essential to encourage the adoption of responsible and virtuous behavior in this area – from producers to consumers. In this context, AI can identify innovative and effective strategies for reducing consumption and managing supply networks. Ecojoko, a French company, collaborates with the University of Paris to find innovative technological solutions capable of reducing CO2 emissions from residential buildings using artificial intelligence algorithms.
Reduce land and air pollution
It is now clear that pollution, together with the environmental impact of the production of goods and services, are among the main causes of climate change. As the report points out, global carbon dioxide has in fact “increased by more than 50% between 1990 and 2012”. Using Artificial Intelligence to carry out projects that aim to make human activities more sustainable can give a great help to the planet: AI applications can help reduce CO2 consumption and give an estimate of the consequences that the socio-industrial system can have on the environment, to also prevent catastrophic events; or, it can optimize production and transport, identifying zero-impact solutions that fuel a circular economy. The European Community has launched Destination Earth, a project that aims to create a very high precision digital model of the Earth, to monitor and simulate natural and human activity, test scenarios that enable more sustainable development and support european environmental policies.
Protect the environment and biodiversity
The excessive exploitation of the oceans, the pollution of water, but also the enormous damage to terrestrial biodiversity and the destruction of forests, are problems of great relevance and relevance, which must push us to find effective solutions in the shortest possible time, in line with UN goals 14 and 15. How can Artificial Intelligence, also in this case, support man in defining sustainable strategies and virtuous common actions? It could identify non-destructive fishing tools, practices that do not use harmful substances or drive robots to monitor and clean the seas. Like WasteShark, a smart water-drone designed in Germany, which can remove plastic and other floating waste from the surface of the water. But there’s more. Artificial Intelligence can help humans monitor the safety of forests, preventing fires and protecting biodiversity. In the United States, since 2015, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Orbital Insight have been developing new artificial vision and deep learning applications to improve the Global Forest Watch (GFW) project which aims to monitor and protect forests around the world.