We’re not going to get the AI we dream of or the one that we fear, but the one we plan for. – Stephan Talty

Climate change is one of the largest challenges facing our planet. Scientific evidence proves the recent drastic variation in our Earth’s climate. Its cause is man-made CO2 in our atmosphere. Its effects are record droughts, extreme hurricanes, melting ice sheets, and rising sea levels to the detriment of coastal cities. Artificial Intelligence (AI) may just be the innovation to help reduce carbon emissions and to address other major obstacles of our time, but it also may create a few of its own sizable problems along the way.

AI functions primarily on two things: simple algorithms and massive databases. AI is nothing without either. The difference between a human and an AI is the size of our memory. While we may forget the title of the book we read last year, AI not only remembers the title but every word in that book. It locates patterns within the data which then enables the learning process. This tool transforms massive, complex data sets into useful solutions. It is this function of AI that provides its far-reaching potential.

Today, Narrow AI applications are everywhere. Though its technology has been in the works for sixty years, only within the last decade has AI begun to make such rapid advances to impact our daily lives. AI enables Facebook to recognize my face in photos and Amazon to recommend books I might like. An AI Assistant, Alexa, helps my grandma to play her favorite John Denver song, to Google the name of that book about the clown, and to note her calendar for the next time I visit. On a larger scale, Google uses AI to diagnose heart disease – or to win at Chess. Tesla uses it to fashion self-driving vehicles. In both small and great ways, AI is providing us the ability to do tasks more efficiently, and it may provide us the ability to make better decisions in the future.

In the next five years, Narrow AI applications can and will expand. This is promising – and concerning. It is promising that machine learning solutions could be a boost to practically every sector that affects climate change – agriculture, transportation, and the energy industry, just to name the major players. It is concerning because AI forces us to answer big questions. Should we allow ourselves to change human DNA? What do we do when AI replaces jobs in entire industries? Could AI become conscious? – and if it does, let’s hope it likes us!

As AI grows to encompass more of our daily lives, these applications will need principles. Without guidance, AI could widen the social class gap even further, or worse, become a cognitive evil power akin to the I, Robot Supercomputer.

Bill Gates and Elon Musk warned about AI becoming a power of its own to the detriment of humans. Now, we must address these big questions, before a rouge AI application backfires. If we cannot answer these issues in the next five years, then these innovations need safeguarding with set principles and proper review processes. I plan to be a part of the process that develops AI innovation and its applications in wind, solar, or geothermal solutions. My motivation to develop my skills is rooted in my passion for green energy, and it is furthered in a desire to help navigate the healthy progression of technology within our communities. AI could make our lives better, but only if we handle it responsibly.

Author's Bio: 

I am a computer science professor. Being a tech enthusiast I keep close tabs on trends and will be glad to share and discuss the latest wrapups in the field with the community.