Business March 4, 2019 Last updated February 27th, 2019 2,503 Reads share

Is AI Sustainable?

Image Credit: Stockunlimited

Artificial Intelligence affects everything, all aspects of life. From our personal, day-to-day life, to our professional one. So far, the effects of AI we have seen have been moderate but people have started getting used to them, just like we got used to the internet not long ago. It has automated many tasks and has made the production of goods, daily chores, and many other things easier to accomplish. From data center efficiency to self-driving cars, the impact Artificial intelligence has had in the world and innovation is huge.

Machines taking over

The number of times AI or an AI experiment get mentioned in the news, people go crazy over the idea of it taking over the world and enslaving us all. Today, it is made into a big deal as this machine that will take over the world and enslave humans. This belongs more in a science fiction movie than it does in real life. The implementation of AI in robotics is only one aspect of it. As we understand now, this new technology has to do with software and the way we can teach it to understand patterns and use them to make our lives easier and achieve things we have not been able to do before.  


But regardless, the technological innovation has taken over rapidly, and people are still trying to comprehend the real impact it will truly have in the world.

Where AI and Sustainability meet

AI and Sustainability are two notions that we hear often but not all people understand. Just like AI is taken for robots who do our dishes and are planning to take over our lives, people think that sustainability has to do only with the environment. But the definitions of these two concepts are much larger.


AI (artificial intelligence) is described as the completing of the task that usually requires human intelligence, such as planning, executing, reasoning, motion, perception, etc. So basically, everything that is associated with human intelligence. Practically, Artificial Intelligence is software learning to complete tasks that usually require critical thinking to complete.


Sustainability, on the other hand, is the ability to develop without compromising the needs of future generations. The word on itself means to be able to maintain at a certain rate or level, and that describes sustainability perfectly. Sustainability is a broad term that touches on many subjects and can be applied to a lot of spheres of life, like food, buildings, company life, etc.


Artificial intelligence already plays a big part in the world’s economy. Look at Netflix, how it recommends movies is a prime example of an intelligent system designed to analyze data. Another example is Amazon’s Alexa, a virtual assistant, programmed to respond to our voice, make changes in our schedules, play music and many other features. These an illustration of the simplest ways Artificial Intelligence has revolutionized many industries and has created new ones altogether.


So far, AI has helped companies reduce their social and environmental impacts by automation processes that took too much time and effort to complete. But how much has it actually helped sustainability?

What AI can do for sustainability

The way people life, work and fulfill their needs has changed over the years. There was a time when all physical labor was done by people using primitive tools to help them. The industrial revolution changed that forever, giving people the ability to move to professions that do not harm them physically.   


An equally important change in the ways people live and work was done by the invention and mass usage of the internet at the end of the last century. The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, the way we consume, and the way we live in general. It has even brought to life new industries, ones that we never thought could exist.


There is no doubt that the development of artificial intelligence will have the same, or even bigger, impact on the way people live, do business, and communicate. But will this change be sustainable? Will AI save the planet or destroy it? Will it enhance social responsibility? These are all things to think about.


The combination of AI and sustainability can go both ways. It could contribute to a smoother transition to sustainable practices by helping companies improve efficiency and develop new products. In some cases, it has helped companies like Google to create better data analyzing systems that are electricity efficient. Other prime examples of companies, implementing sustainable practices using AI are Tesla, IBM, and Microsoft.


Smart homes are a prime example of how we’ve incorporated AI and Sustainability into our day to day lives. By incorporating machine learning into our homes, we save electricity and organize our lives in a way that is healthier and consequently, sustainable.


The negative

On the other hand, the mix of artificial intelligence and sustainability could bring trouble. It could create an automated bias towards demographic groups. But discrimination towards these are regulated by law, and there is a risk for artificial intelligence to make recommendations and predictions. Another problem that could occur is that artificial intelligence may eat all our jobs. This has already been happening, certain industries some processes are completely automated and don’t need humans to run. Artificial Intelligence has even put out of business industries that were thriving before.


The fact that AI will kill certain industries and bring to life other ones is without a doubt true. It will be without a fact one of the biggest innovations that will shape sustainability. Just like the industrial and internet revolutions have done before. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. This will bring out the need for employees with soft and organizational skills, which don’t require hard physical labor.

How it should be done

Like many other major breakthroughs on technology, AI will certainly revolutionize industries and the economy. Be that in a good or bad way, processes will move forward. Something that must not be neglected is making sure that those changes are for the better. We have to make sure that we use AI to push forward sustainable processes and contribute for a better and longer future. This can only be done when there are regulations put into place and there is good will.

 colleagues in creative office space

Benjamin Kolenovic

Benjamin Kolenovic

Read Full Bio