AI to promote sustainability

Is AI going to end the world, or save it? — Sustainability, product consumption, and artificial intelligence, part 1

This article highlights the current possibilities and uses of artificial intelligence, and AI and sustainability can go hand in hand, with a focus on how the technology can be used to make significant changes towards production methods that are genuinely sustainable.


(If you’re already caught up on the advances of AI, go to this post to read about how deep learning can promote sustainable products and production methods.)

AI and sustainability — but why?

Is artificial intelligence going to end the world, or save it? While this could easily be the question of a fluff article on medium, you know me better than that.

As a personal interest, I follow AI use. Now, I think it’s time we talked about the possible benefits of using AI in the battle against environmental collapse.

AI to promote sustainability


Every week seems to harbor new and terrifying news about climate change, loss in biodiversity, and well, overall environmental destruction.

At the same time, the future seems to be rushing past us with breathtaking speed.


I’m mostly skeptical about new technologies that claim to solve environmental issues. If you’ve read enough of these posts you know that it’s because we humans have a tendency to solve complicated issues, by creating even larger, more complex issues.


And while chatbots are as annoying as sand in your shoes, the technology holds some interesting potential.


Let’s break it down.


Ready. Set. GO!

If you have read the tech news in the last couple of years, you likely saw Google’s AlphaGo beat a human champing in the strategic game of Go.

This is a big deal for several reasons.

1: Go is very different from Chess and requires almost fluent intelligence. You can’t brute force your way through a game by simulating every optional outcome as you can in chess. In other words, you need years of cognitive experience playing the game, before you get a “feel” for good or bad moves.


2: The AI played in a way that seemed random to the human commentators. The moves appeared to be erratic, but would later in the game turn out to be significant strategic moves, that would ultimately make it the victor. This means AlphaGo “thinks” in ways that are strategically unimaginable to human players.


Artificial intelligence and deep learning allows for the processing of vast amounts of information, combine the data, and learn from it. That’s why AI and sustainability could be a combination worth looking at.


Here are some examples of how AI is currently used in the consumer packaged goods industry, and the world of medical science.


Beer, Big Macs. & breast cancer — the span of AI


Yes, we are jumping right in!
Turns out that Carlsberg, the 4th largest brewery in the world, is the player that invited AI to the frat party.


As part of their Beer Fingerprint Projects, Carlsberg is using AI, including machine learning algorithms, to measure the flavors and aromas in beers.

The goal is to map a flavor fingerprint of each beer sample, thereby reducing the time it takes to research taste combinations.

They estimate a time saving up to a third, which will help Carlsberg bring new flavors to the market faster.


Another fun project that Carlsberg has been brewing is their Red Hop project.

Based on research into how light and sound affect plants, this techy beer company installed big-screen TVs in a greenhouse and played Liverpool FC matches nonstop for the crop of red hops growing there.


All for the sake of creating a special brew infused with the soccer team’s colors and the fans’ roaring cheers.

So… That happened.


If you got a headache reading that, don’t worry, you’re not alone. At least we can file it under “publicity stunt”.


AI-controlled drive-throughs


At the other end of the scale, everyone’s favorite cause of diabetes, McDonald’s, has been spending the last couple of years looking into their customers’ purchasing habits, with an interesting new approach to upsell.


AI sustainability

McDonald’s serves around 68 million customers every single day, and more than half of that is via drive-throughs. That’s a lot of data points.


After acquiring the startup Dynamic Yield in 2018, McD’s started implementing algorithmically driven decision logic technology into their drive-throughs.


In short, when you place an order, millions upon millions of exciting data points will generate suggestions for you to add to your order. The most relevant menu items are ready for upselling.


It’s basically a mind reader that knows what you want to eat and when.


Currently, the U.S. national average for a drive-through trip is about 190 seconds. Ai is trying to cut that down even more, while pushing even more sales.

Artificial intelligence in your boobs


And finally, breast cancer. With many advances in the medicinal industry, the world of medical science is looking to computers and deep learning.

Radiology is one of the fields seeing a sharp rise in the usage of programs, that are used to analyze x-ray photos, and can be used for detecting fracture and other musculoskeletal injuries.


Both IBM and Google have chimed in on best cancer detection. Google’s LYNA is claiming a 99% accuracy in metastatic breast cancer detection!



LYNA wasn’t perfect — it occasionally misidentified giant cells, germinal cancers, and bone marrow-derived white blood cells known as histiocytes — but managed to perform better than a practicing pathologist tasked with evaluating the same slides. Venturebeat

Outperforming humans in cancer detection is arguably a good thing.

Now, let’s look at some more ways artificial intelligence can help make the world better, in the next post about AI and sustainability.



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