Is AI going to end the world, or save it? — Sustainability, product consumption, and artificial intelligence, part 2

This is part two of an article that 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.


Now that you’ve read part one of this post, are you ready to see how AI can be used for good? Great, Let’s get going!

The possibilities of AI to make the world better

While I highly detest giving my data to an algorithm that knows more about me than my spouse, I must admit AI harbors some amazing optional in regards to sustainability.


Several high rollers in the consumer packaged goods industries have started to use AI as a way of optimizing production.


It works by an algorithm combing through a list of tens of thousands of ingredients and simulating their interaction.


In human speak: The program can figure out how different components in a product, say a yogurt, or body lotion, will interact, without having to mix the ingredients. This saves companies loads of time and money because they can focus on a few, highly targeted product tests, instead of months and years of testing different products by methodically replacing various components.


This means it can allow product developers to find cleaner alternatives to their list of ingredients. And this is where we have potential!


Let’s look at some examples


As you probably know our fashion industry is taking a heavy toll on the environment. Besides from the 79 billion cubic meters of water the industry uses per year, and the 92 million tons of solid waste dumped in landfills each year, the industry is also generating more greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.



Yay, fashion!

But, our fashion needs and wants also has another consequence: Plastic pollution.

We all know microplastic pollution is bad, whether it’s polluting our oceans or floating around in the air we breathe.


While it’s wonderful to see national bans on everything from straws to single use-cups, there’s another overlooked culprit.

Our fleece sweaters and yoga pant are made from polyesters.

Polyester is a polymer, meaning a long chain of repeating molecular units (that’s science talk for plastic). And more and more of our clothes are made with plastic fibers.

You might have seen some fleece jackets being marketed as sustainable jackets. That’s because they are made from recycled plastic. Well, that’s still an issue.

When you wear and wash your clothing, pieces of the fabric will fall off. But this fabric is made of plastic.

That means your washing machine empties out its water, the tiny plastic threads are carried with the graywater.

The effect of micro- and nano plastic is still not fully research, but its documented that microplastic in fish results in brain damage and behavioral change.

Tiny note on biology: If other species with a central nervous system is affected, humans probably are as well.


Using AI to asses the durability and elasticity of more sustainable fabrics, like bamboo fibers, wool, and cotton blends could help pave the way for better fabrics, that are still soft and durable.


Beauty products and food


In the world of sustainable beauty products, there is one major villain. Palm oil.


Being the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, palm oil is believed to be in about 50% of products found in supermarkets and shops!


It sounds like a natural and healthy ingredient to use in beauty products, right? Palm oil can currently be found in everything from conditioner, to body lotion, toothpaste and, let’s not forget the Grace and Frankie special, lube.


On the food spectrum, palm oil can be found in anything from ice cream and margarine,


But the palm oil industry is insanely destructive on the environment and countries like Malaysia, and Indonesia suffer devastating loss in biodiversity as almost 50% of the local deforestation is a result of tropical forests being cut down to make way for palm oil plantations.

It’s estimated that palm oil responsible for 0.4% of global deforestation.


Pretty heartbreaking.


The reason palm oil is used in half of all super marked products is, that it’s safe and cheap

— that is, it’s cheap as long as you don’t count in the externalities (hidden costs) from biodiversity destructions.



Where AI could do the environment a solid, is by finding alternative ingredient combination to substitute palm oil.

Or at the very least, cut down on the amount of oil needed.



Think about it. AI’s are already being used to optimize products, by finding cheaper alternative ingredients that do not change the properties of the product.


If you made it analyze all known ingredients in the food and beauty industry, blacklisting some ingredients like pall oil.


Heck, maybe AI could even come up with the world’s first non-toxic nail polish (yep, nail polish is pretty toxic, and not great if you’re into green living).



Natural insecticides, to replace the neonicotinoids and fungicides that are killing off our pollinators


By now you likely know that colony collapse disorder, and the rapid decline in pollinations is linked to habitat loss and our current agricultural processes.


More precisely, the pesticide and fungicides we use in the agricultural sector have been shown to weaken the immune system of bees and mess with their navigation skills.


As a result, we are seeing an alarming drop in pollinators, including bees and butterflies.


In short, we need pollinators to, well pollinate, if we are to keep a healthy global food production system. It’s estimated that 1/3 of all global food, is dependent on pollinators.

The list of food that could possibly go extinct from lack of pollinators include Chocolate and coffee.

Back to AI!

One way futuristic computers could help us is by the deployment of smart robot bees. But, if you like me, have seen black mirror, you’re probably not going to be in favor of millions of tiny robots all mounted with cameras.


Instead, AI could be used to prevent the total collapse of our ecosystem.

Like all old school farmers know, there are alternatives to mainstream pesticides and herbicides. Things like eucalyptus and garlic, are known to keep unwanted pests abbey. As a bonus, your fields will be vampire free.

(Fun side note, My granddad, that I’ve mentioned before taught me how to use garlic as a pesticide when I was a kid. I think that might also be where I got the lame vampire joke. #SorryNotSorry.)

Again, AI could be tasked with sorting through knowledge about safer alternatives to common-use pesticides. That would creat recipes out of non-harmful ingredients.


This recipe could then be lab tested to make sure, they don’t have negative side effects on crops or wildlife.


The Greenenator — AI’s gear for improving the future of our planet


So there you have. A run through of how AI could be used to for good.

We could use a sustainability Terminator to stop some of our current harmful behaviors. Or, We could use it to save the millions of hectares of forest from being cut down, or by halting the causes of colony collapse disorder, or by limiting the amount of microplastic that ends up in our food stream.


We have a choice now. Either, we can use AI to sell more fast food, and make tastier beers, or…

Dear future, let’s work to make Alpha Go, go green.




Keep being awesome,



Endnote: if you are more curious about AI I recommend this lengthy post from WaitButWhy.

I also highly recommend this more general book about algorithms and al, The Formula, Luke Dormehl.

And lastly, for those of you who love exploring Sci-fi, this fanfiction is some of the best I’ve read about AI (surprisingly well researched), I advise you to check out Friendship is optimal.


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.



Environmental preservation or preventing necrophile rapist ducks – know your audience

Yes, that’s an actual headline. The following post will involve necrophile rapist ducks. When you’ve read this post, you’ll know what you can do to make your target audience act more environmentally friendly, and how to use it in your work/daily life. And yes, there is a connection to rapist ducks. 


Did you ever feed ducks as a child? I did, with my grandparents mostly. It was a fine balance between getting close enough to get the duck to eat out of my hands while keeping a distance that ensured they would not eat me.


Duck feeding is, however, a horrible thing to do. It’s bad for the ducks, and bad for the environment. The only thing it’s good for is human emotions. It feels nice to feed the ducks. It’s cozy.

When you feed ducks they poop more, exposing the pond, or other water environments, to more nitrogen. The added nitrogen leads to algae bloom, which leads to hypoxia. Hypoxia is a fancy word for no-oxygen. When the water environment losses oxygen, the living organisms in it suffocate. Fish, shrimps, and other oxygen-dependent creatures. This means…

Feed the ducks, kill the fish.

election-613132_1920You would think that this information alone was enough to stop people from feeding ducks. Spoiler alert -it’s not.

We are emotional beings, and the above is a factual explanation. Facts often bend to emotions. Think about the last national election in your country, and I’m sure you can find an example or two, of politician swaying votes on emotion, instead of facts.

In the case of duck feeding, the feeding itself gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling. It creates memories. It amplifies your own memories. And the ducks are happy, right, I mean just look at them. I’m sure one little loaf of bread won’t make a difference. All those environmental hippies are exaggerating.

We now have a Mexican standoff between, family values (warm fuzzy duck feeding), and environmental conservation. What now? Enter the necrophiliac rapist duck.

Male ducks are known to gang-rape female ducks. There is plenty of youtube material – I’m not going to link to it. When ducks are fed a diet of white bread, they become fat. So fat indeed, when they mate (or rape if you will) the male ducks can end up drowning the female. This means…

Feed the ducks, create necrophile rapist ducks!

In a bonus info about ducks, they don’t stop just because the female is now a “floater”. Ducks have been known to have necrophilia (and homosexual) tendencies. Here’s a scientific article about it  – you’re welcome.

Why am I telling you this awful news? Long story short, it was a subject at my workplace, and I decided to make an infographic about it: TADA!!!

(Article will continue after picture)

Feel free to download, or share.  Now to the actual point.

Know your audience

For decades environmental planners and activists have preached environmental preservation. But unfortunately, they were mostly preaching to the choir. I was an accomplice as well.

Save the pandas, the trees, the water, the whales… Think of the children and be a more responsible person.

Environmentalists have either argued the rational point:

If we keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, we’re going to suffer the consequences

…or the misplaced emotional point;

Do it for the children. Give them a world with polar bears.

Going back to the duck-feeding example, the above is a case of the first method of communication. A rational statement followed by a small emotional ‘Something bad will happen’. But that ‘something bad, doesn’t seem convincing enough to bend our habits.

It’s very easy to dismiss the information because it conflicts too much with ones one values: the family values. Remember, duck feeding is still a happy family activity that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling.

While the necrophilia information is still true, it targets those family values. You do not want your child or grandchild to witness a necrophilic gang rape. So you pay attention. This information feeds into your worldview and values.


Stop preaching to the choir!

Really, put effort into mapping out who your target group is. And if your target group is everybody you’ve already lost. It is very tempting for environmental planners to plan campaigns that work for everyone, this goes double if you are in a governmental department.

Your job is to fix everybody, and you often are not funded adequately. This is also a contributor to the status quo campaigns we’ve been seeing since the 80’s. You know them all too well:

Turn of the light, turn of the tab, recycle, walk more… The list goes on, and not just in the environmental areas (eat fruit, stop smoking, exercise 30 min each day).

The target group is everyone, and therefore the message is so placid, it applies to everybody and nobody at the same time – and it doesn’t work.

If you’re selling Nike shoes, you’re not advertising to all people with feet.

Big marketing doesn’t work in broad campaigns like that. Take Nike shoes. There’s a financial span, demographics, age –and the coolness factor. You find your target audience and go directly for them. Why should the principles be any different for campaigns regarding health or the environment?

Rotate your audience.

Here’s one solution, rotate your audience. Find your early adopters. Chances are, they already support you, so you don’t need to actively campaign for them. This is your choir, you don’t need to preach to them. But give them credit for their enthusiasm. This ensures that they keep fighting the good fight, and keep talking with their friends and relatives about your cause.

A campaign targeted towards early adaptors is basically giving them a high-five, saying you are awesome! This ensures their commitment to you and enhances their role as ambassadors.

After you’ve done that, then you can start looking at other target groups, like families, children, millennials, seniors, and different social groups.

Oh and lastly don’t just tell them what they should not do – give them directions towards a better behavior so you don’t leave them hanging with good intentions, but no knowledge of what to do.

What to do instead – you can still feed cute animals

Instead of feeding the ducks, you can try to identify the different species, and center you family activity around that. If you like the idea of feeding animals in need, feed butterflies or other pollinators like bees, as they contrary to ducks, desperately need it.

That’s all for now – please don’t encourage necrophilia duck rape.


-Keep beeing awesome (Badam-tsch!)