NEWS 2019-10-16

Swedish-US initiative on AI and sustainability

On 15 October representatives from U.S. and Swedish academia, Swedish government, Google, Ericsson, USAID and UN agencies UNDP and UN Global Pulse, met to explore how applications of artificial intelligence can help us reach targets related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The event marked the beginning of a new initiative coordinated by the Beijer Institute, Princeton University (Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies), and Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The intensive fires in the Amazon, the rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and continued loss of biodiversity all illustrate that our planet is changing at a dangerous pace. At the same time, we are entering a period of unprecedented technological change.

Artificial intelligence in combination with accelerated progress in sensor technology and robotics, are likely to change the way we all perceive and respond to social and environmental changes. How can we ensure that applications of artificial intelligence help us address these urgent challenges?

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the world not only needs responsible AI, but planetary responsible AI”, said one of the founders of the initiative, Victor Galaz, programme director at Beijer Institute and deputy director at Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Time for a serious discussion

Galaz believes there is a need to have a serious discussion across academia, civil society, policy and business about how AI can help expand our planetary support systems – climate stability, biodiversity, and living oceans. Otherwise, he warns, these technologies may well lead to accelerated climate and ecological disruption.

“In a world as complex and interconnected as ours, the black box of AI represents a governance challenge. How can we make use of the opportunities provided by AI, while also making sure that we have the constraints and control needed? The potential for applications of AI for agricultural production are tremendous, but we need to make sure these do not create new unexpected risks”, said Miguel Centeno, professor at Princeton University and vice-dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

“Sweden is at the forefront of research and development in artificial intelligence, but it is only through strong partnerships between business, academia and government that we can unleash AI’s full potential and realize the social and economic benefits we hope to achieve”, concluded Annika Rembe, Consul General of Sweden in New York.