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Oct 05, 2021

Artificial intelligence: Good for the planet!

by Hugues Foltz Executive vice-president

Artificial intelligence

What do researching new molecules for the development of drugs, reducing the consumption of fossil fuels for the transport of goods, managing water in large cities and decreasing energy consumption in buildings have in common? Or the analysis of pollution levels to predict meteorological phenomena and the oncoming rise in the level of the oceans, the optimization of planetary food production, the automatic detection of oil leaks in pipelines and the detection of fraud internationally?

All these great ideas are concrete examples of technologies that make both science and our world progress, and that aim to help us do better as a society. What’s even more interesting is that they are all stemming from artificial intelligence (AI), which allows the development of high performing solutions that are out-of-reach with traditional technologies.

AI has captured the imagination of many, yet it is often depicted in the form of technologies that are far from seeing the light of day, like the humanoids in the movies Robocop and Ex Machina. Personally, I believe that artificial intelligence is at its most powerful – and its most relevant – when used to solve problems related to the health of our planet, the evolution of humanity and the reduction of our consumption of natural resources. That’s what we call artificial intelligence for a good deed!

What is the ai for good movement?

The “AI for Good” movement has grown exponentially in the past few years. Many private companies around the world have seen this as an opportunity to optimize their systems while having a positive effect on the environment and society. And that’s not to mention the astounding number of scientists who are now using AI to advance their research faster.

Let’s take the automatic detection of threats and oil leaks on pipelines that cross our countries, for example. This idea belongs to Flyscan, a Quebec start-up business, but mostly to an entrepreneur that understood how technologies can make a difference! The automatic analysis of images and signals specific to oil spills will certainly prevent many ecological disasters all over the world, and it’s all thanks to this Quebec-owned technology.

As my previous articles already stated, AI is both a mature and powerful technology. It therefore seems quite natural to rely on machines to predict, calculate and solve issues linked to the health of our planet or society.

The Algorithms of Overconsumption

I can’t, however, end this article without pointing out one great contradiction, which is the staggering accuracy of AI algorithms used for online advertising, designed to make you compulsively buy things that you do not really need. Will AI algorithms used for good purposes triumph over those that make us overconsume and pollute? That remains to be seen.

In my opinion, we certainly will be seeing more good examples of AI being used to improve our lifestyles, our management of natural resources and the health of the planet.

If you ever wondered if AI is a promising technology, I do believe that it can be a game changer and solve the biggest problems our planet is currently facing, ultimately creating a better place to call home.