Andrew Yang was right when he observed that:
“Automation is not limited to manufacturing. Robots replace physical labor, and AI and software replace mental labor.”
Humans have already impacted life and its evolution on Earth in many ways. Hunting, agriculture, fishing, climate change, habitat fragmentation, urbanization, and pollution are some of the human-induced changes that greatly impact our planet. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is speeding up the process in all these aspects and more.
Here are some of the ways how AI is changing our lifestyle as well as the Earth, its environment, and its inhabitants:
Smart House is not just a movie anymore!
Do you remember the Disney movie ‘Smart House’ which released in 1999? It featured a robot called PAT (Personal Applied Technology) who could:
- control settings in the house,
- make phone calls,
- perform chores,
- receive and respond to voice commands, and even
- learn the daily habits of the occupants and adjust its activities accordingly.
Modern-day AI-based IoT (Internet of Things) devices can do a lot of things PAT did in that movie. Amazon Echo, smart TV, smart thermostats, security systems, music systems, and other smart home devices can be linked and controlled by Amazon Alexa. Google Home and Google Assistant are offering similar services.
AI is helping us play God!
GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) and Genetic Engineering are taking bold steps when it comes to modifying plant and animal DNA on the Earth. Scientists have been trying to use these technologies to help increase the food supply of the world and improve public health. They are already developing crops that are resistant to insects, tolerant towards drought conditions, or give better yields. Doctors may soon prescribe us foods, instead of medicines, to treat various diseases, such as:
- tomatoes and broccoli to fight cancer,
- rice, sweet potatoes and cassava with multi-vitamin features,
- allergen-free peanuts, soy, and wheat,
- bananas as vaccines and more.
Breeding and crossbreeding plants and animals have helped us come up with foods that are bigger, last longer, and more delicious. Naturally, such an advanced field cannot remain untouched by Artificial Intelligence. The breakthrough technology of RNA-programmable CRISPR-Cas9 allows site-specific genetic editing.
This technology can not only be used for agricultural research but also for engineering animal models that can help us understand human diseases better and aid pharmacological studies.
The GMO applications are controversial though. Monsanto, for example, developed terminator seeds that can grow crops but do not produce seeds. So, the next time farmers want to grow Monsanto crops, they need to buy the patented seeds from the company again.
Biotech firm Oxitec developed terminator male mosquitoes meant to be released in areas infected with the Zika virus. These mosquitoes breed with female mosquitoes in those areas and produce progeny that dies before reaching adulthood.
This reduces the mosquito population dramatically in the area and helps in controlling the spread of diseases like Zika, malaria, dengue, yellow fever, etc. The mosquitoes were released in the Cayman Islands and Brazil and a drop of 61|% to 81% was noted in the mosquito population there.
AI is helping us choose what the life around us would look like, what traits it will have, and how it will serve us.
Artificial Intelligence is helping us combat Climate Change
Climate change predictions require analysis of several terabytes of data. Only artificial intelligence has the power to analyze such large data sets and use them to make accurate predictions. Today, we employ AI to monitor several aspects of our environment – from melting glaciers to commercial waste management.
Energy-efficient smart home devices help us lower our energy usage and utility bills. Smart thermostats adjust the temperature according to the weather, smart water sprinklers change the usage of water according to the humidity levels of air, smart security systems minimize false alarms and save the fuel of first responders. When possible, smart devices can use alternative cleaner energy sources like solar energy or wind energy. With clever usage, these AI-based smart devices can help us reduce our carbon footprint.
AI-powered robots and drones help farmers and scientists monitor soil health and detect erosion using complex algorithms. Machine learning can also help advise farmers on what to plant, when to plant it, when to irrigate crops and how, and when to harvest it. It can also cut down on the use of pesticides and fertilizers by farmers by offering them the right alternative steps at the right time. AI enables precision agriculture which can bring a new kind of green revolution in the world.
Oceanographers use autonomous marine vehicles powered by AI technology to go to the deepest depths of the ocean and collect garbage from there. These systems also help in removing plastics and debris floating in ocean water. The blockchain technology that powers cryptocurrencies also helps in tracking fishing activities in the ocean. If overfishing (above the authorized limit) is noticed, it can notify the authorities. Each fish that gets caught is recorded in a ledger and gets a scan-able code printed on it to prove that it is legally caught.
Recently, computer scientists from Loughborough University have developed an AI System which can predict air pollutions level up to two days in advance. This system uses machine learning to predict the levels of fine particulates (such as PM2.5) other harmful gases in the air. Forecasting air quality and pollution levels can help policymakers control carbon emissions and reduce greenhouse gas emissions better.
Artificial Intelligence can help us find Aliens!
NASA thinks that AI technologies can help us find life on alien planets and detect asteroids. Advanced machine learning techniques can be used to interpret big data sets collected by advanced telescopes of the future like:
- the James Webb Space Telescope, or
- the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
Using AI, space innovators to filter out the noise and find patterns in data. Neural networks are an excellent way to analyze images and find the chemical composition of exoplanets based on the wavelengths of light rays absorbed or emitted by molecules in their atmosphere. It is to be noted that NASA’s fleet of spacecraft collects about 2 gigabytes of data every 15 seconds. AI can help us optimize the use of resources, people, and time needed to analyze this kind of data.
Scientists are also considering the possibility that alien intelligence may not look like human intelligence. The extraterrestrial life may have different dialects, cultures, or tools of communication than us. Hence, the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) institute in Silicon Valley is developing a roadmap to search for life which is still unknown to us. SETI researchers think that AI may play a big role in helping us understand the language of the universe. Machine learning may help us cluster data into ‘natural categories’ and filter outliers for further investigation.
Until now, researchers were using AI to create simulations of what alien radio signals may look like. Now, they are trying to use it to find what we haven’t been looking for.
AI can help us analyze the past and concurrent data accurately and predict future events with surprising accuracy. Naturally, it is going to play a big role in how we adapt to the rapid changes in our world. Artificial Intelligence has already arrived and it’s going to get better.