Economic Development: The words “Sustainability” and “Artificial Intelligence” or AI may appear to be the most disparate terms. And yet, closer scrutiny will reveal that they can be intertwined.
Both AI and “Sustainability” originate from benevolent motives. AI was formally coined in 1956 by John McCarthy from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and was developed in the hopes of simulating human functions in computers, thereby enabling faster and more efficient processes to improve our quality of life. The idea of “Sustainability” was conceived much earlier, in 1713, by Hans Carl von Carlowitz in his book Sylvicultura Oeconomica. Mr. Carlowitz’s initial objective was to formulate sustainable forestry ideas.
Both AI and “Sustainability” are also wielded as weapons in the fight against climate change, one of the gravest threats to man’s existence. Climate change is the nemesis of sustainable economic development. In the battle to combat global warming, AI can help like no other technological advancement known to man.
For a more forceful response to climate change, the governments of many nations, including the United States, have created environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, and the Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund). Yet, no matter how well-motivated and well-written these laws are, they have no value without enforcement. Because of the difficulty in collating evidence and tracking violators, law enforcement is in a quandary.
AI is changing all that. With advanced machine learning algorithms, AI can assist governments by tracking down the sources of carbon emissions in a faster and more efficient manner. In fact, with the aid of AI, the United States Government has been able to collate enough data and evaluate the amounts of carbon emissions to support a twenty-one-state lawsuit that brings to light the danger of easing restrictions on coal-fired power plants.
AI is also being used to hold businesses and industries responsible through publicly available satellite imagery. Several Stanford scholars leveraged this technology to collect data and locate unregistered large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (or CAFOs) which were previously untraceable.
Agriculture and Farming – Economic Development
AI’s high-technology engineering has also benefited sustainability in farming. The influence of AI has led to “Precision Agriculture,” or “Precision Farming.” These terms refer to the type of agriculture or farming that uses AI systems to improve sowing and harvesting plans based on a better prediction of weather conditions, to enhance yield with the timely detection of pests and plant diseases, and to more accurately assess the nutritional needs of crops. Armed with higher-quality information, farmers
can optimize irrigation and crop management practices, thereby decreasing tillage requirements. This means that there are fewer requirements for fossil fuels in pre-cultivation work. When the land is allowed to rest more frequently, carbon sequestration is enhanced, which minimizes its evaporation from the soil.
Another way that farmers can leverage AI is by accessing AI-powered data networks of governments, non-profit organizations, the academe, and various socio-civic groups. Moreover, hi-tech sensors and robotic devices from AI technology can make agricultural and farming operations more efficient through automation, leading to less energy input but with higher yields.
AI-based solutions in automation are also much sought after by businesses, from small startups to SMEs to big corporations. Hiring software developers can be one of the best investments that companies can make to cope with the demand for heightened productivity that is also environmentally sustainable. Talented software engineers can create AI-driven programs that make processes and workflows more efficient, allowing for more automation and less dependence on manual operations. Document processing, procurement, and accounting systems are some departments that can benefit from AI’s robotic processes.
Building and Construction
AI technology can bolster “Green Architecture.” AI-based building solutions can produce more ecologically friendly building materials. Ingenious AI designs for sustainability also allow for more energy-efficient homes and offices. For example, through augmented models, AI can help you determine how much light your building needs, which can go a long way in managing your electricity consumption and lead to huge savings for your company. Another way that AI can help your sustainability goals is through a system called the Intelligent Energy Management System or IEMS. This system can analyze your total energy requirements and then optimize your resources. AI also enables a more fluid system for the construction industry by automating many of its processes.
Renewable Energy Industry
To significantly reduce carbon emissions, we need to redirect efforts to increase the usage of more sustainable energy assets. With the transition to renewable energy, AI integration can help better manage decentralized grid systems. With AI, these grids, such as solar panels, microgrids, and those found in wind farms, are enabled to collate and evaluate large quantities of data to create an equilibrium between power supply and energy demand in real time. When the sun triggers the cells to produce electrical energy, this energy turns into electricity for the consumption of homes and industries. However, this kind of technology is weather-dependent. AI can stabilize the power balance of these cells.
More than just being one of many tools for sustainable economic development, AI can be the significant key to addressing many environmental issues. With AI driving sustainability, future generations may yet be able to enjoy life as we experience it now, perhaps even more so.