Guest essay by Eric Worrall
A Climate activist explaining how AI technology will solve all the world’s problems. But the author kind of glosses over some of the limits of current generation AI technology.
How Artificial Intelligence Can Power Climate Change Strategy
Slowing down climate change is an urgent matter. If we fail, our world will face a more extensive crisis than we experienced because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. When artificial intelligence (AI) technology helps solve a problem, problem-solving can be done quicker, and the solution is often one that would have taken longer for humans to discover. Could artificial intelligence power climate change strategy? Yes, and it’s already doing so.
AI Can Accelerate Our Response to Climate Change
There’s no time to waste: atmospheric CO2 levels are the highest ever (even with significant drops from the stay-at-home orders for COVID-19), average sea levels are rising (3 inches in the last 25 years alone), and 2019 was the hottest year on record for the world’s oceans. …
Improve Energy Efficiency
According to the Capgemini Research Institute, artificial intelligence should improve power efficiency by 15% in the next three to five years. Machine learning supports efficiencies in power generation and distribution …
Optimize Clean Energy Development
In the Amazon basin, developers of hydropower dams have typically developed one at a time with no long-term strategy. …
Companies, governments, and leaders frequently deploy AI solutions to avoid waste. Whether AI is used to reduce energy waste from buildings …
Make Transportation More Efficient
Another quarter of global CO2 emissions is from the transportation sector. AI is already the technology that powers autonomous vehicles …
Tools to Help Understand Carbon Footprint
They say “knowledge is power,” and when it comes to climate change mitigation, AI can help build tools to help individuals and companies understand their carbon footprint …
…Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2021/01/04/how-artificial-intelligence-can-power-climate-change-strategy/?sh=722ad9553482
Can Artificial Intelligence really do all this?
The following is a demonstration I created of something AI is good at, solving optimisation problems. In this case the AI is solving the “Travelling Salesman” problem, using an Evolutionary Algorithm.
If you imagine all the blue dots are cities, the AI rapidly attempts to work out the shortest route for a travelling salesman who has to visit all the cities, much faster than a human can – though AI also makes mistakes which a human can spot straight away, but which the AI struggles to identify and correct. The persistent loops which sometimes appear in the line are mistakes the AI failed to identify.
This is very similar to what happens inside your vehicle satnav, when you ask it to find a route to a destination. Satnav are a terrific aid to navigation – but we’ve all been in situations where the Satnav gave us directions which were plain wrong.
AI will help improve transport in the future, it can be used to unwrap and improve congested roads, or correct poor waterway planning, or inefficient building heating, or any number of other problems. All of these are optimisation problems, just like the travelling salesman problem – something AI is really good at – though a human would still need to review the AI solutions, to identify and reject solutions which contain mistakes.
AI is not going to solve the big problems in climate policy anytime soon, such as preventing blackouts with a grid supplied mostly by intermittent renewable sources. Such a solution, even if it is possible, would in my opinion require a level of creativity and comprehension of the issues which is well beyond the capabilities of current generation AIs.
As I’ve said before, AIs, for all their marvellous capabilities, are still currently just insect level intelligences, at best they have an insect level comprehension of the problem they are being asked to solve. Like termites building a mound, or ants building a nest, AIs can produce remarkable looking solutions to intricate problems.
But we all know what happens to insects when they encounter a problem which is beyond their comprehension – they splat into the wind shield. Or into confusing white surfaces, like the Tesla pictured in the accident at the top of this page.