Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to advocates the “AI For Earth” is here to help – but human Behaviour must Change to save the planet.
Microsoft is Expanding “AI for Earth” Program to Fight Climate Change
Microsoft is expanding its “AI for Earth” program with a $50 million investment over the next five years. This could yield new artificial intelligence applications to enable scientists, businesses, and even farmers to better protect the environment.
AN AI INVESTMENT
The tech giant Microsoft is deploying artificial intelligence to the task of protecting our planet. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, announced on Dec. 11 that the company would be investing $50 million in their AI for Earth program over the next five years in order to “monitor, model, and manage the Earth’s natural systems.”
“AI can be trained to classify raw data from sensors on the ground, in the sky, or in space into categories that both humans and computers understand,” Smith said in the announcement. “Fundamentally, AI can accelerate our ability to observe environmental systems and how they are changing at a global scale, convert the data into useful information, and apply that information to take concrete steps to better manage our natural resources.”
As every nation in the world— save the U.S.—publicly recognizes that human behavior must change in order to preserve the environment, companies like Microsoft are embracing the idea that the more information individuals at every level of society have about their personal sustainability practices, the better they will be able to modify them for the better.
“We face a collective need for urgent action to address global climate issues. When we think about the environmental issues we face today, science tells us that many are the product of previous Industrial Revolutions,” Smith said in the announcement. “…we must not only move technology forward, but also use this era’s technology to clean up the past and create a better future.”
We’ve all seen movies like Terminator, but I personally suspect the AI apocalypse, if it happens, will not be caused by a military computer.
The monster AI which attempts to destroy humanity will be the creation of a group of people who want to make the world a better place.
You can already see the direction. One of the stated goals of this new AI is to help farmers reduce water usage, but advocates state that everyone knows human behaviour must change. What happens to people who don’t want to change? Do they get to refuse the “recommendations” of this new AI?
How long until Microsoft’s AI recommendations, or the recommendations of rival green AI efforts, are integrated into UN directives? What if they try to integrate all of the rival recommendations, even the contradictions? Maybe the UN will need their own AI to synthesise policy recommendations out of a mass of conflicting advice, a “keep everyone happy” AI – everyone that is, except of course people who don’t get to attend or vote at UN meetings.
Most people think of AIs as a joke technology, and in most cases for now they are right, but in another decade AI capabilities will be far more serious than today’s efforts.
As C.S Lewis once said, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”