As technology becomes a more intimate part of our everyday lives, artificial intelligence is driving progress and helping solve some of society’s greatest challenges.
BI Norwegian Business School is researching the impact of technology and artificial intelligence on sustainability, gender equality, health and wellbeing, justice, social responsibility, and responsible investment and education.
Matilda Dorotic, an associate professor in marketing at the business school, has been involved in extensive research on the impact of technology and big data on diverse aspects of well-being, civil-mindedness, and smart cities—she’s recently been invited by the European Commission to talk about the societal issues of implementing artificial intelligence and its far-reaching impact on citizens.
1. AI is helping to tackle environmental challenges
According to the WHO, cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide and is responsible for around 10 million deaths per year. Pollution has been a contributor to those statistics, and outdoor air pollution was declared a carcinogen by The International Agency For Research On Cancer in 2013.
Among the many other applications in improving sustainability, artificial intelligence is helping us tackle pollution and improve air quality. Many cities are using sensors to measure air and noise pollution and traffic congestion in cities, explains Matilda. By using AI to measure pollution in this way, we can identify pollution hot spots, the major causes of pollution ,and solutions.
By using artificial intelligence to track the data about our environment, we can begin to build up a much clearer understanding of how we’re polluting the planet.
It's also an area that offers up a lot of opportunity for startups and is catching the eye of entrepreneurs. German property technology company, Breeze Technologies, for example, uses artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) to help cities and businesses create better clean air action plans. The company helps create a cleaner living and working environment by providing hyperlocal air quality and climate data via smart indoor and outdoor sensors.
2. AI is helping us live healthier
Personal uses for AI come in a variety of forms, from self-quantifying fitness and health apps to personalized advertising and social media recommendations. We’re now able to see our lives presented to us in data. We are more aware of our bodies, minds, and preferences.
“Artificial intelligence is making us much more self-aware and informed about ourselves, our physiological health, emotional health, and all of the other aspects of ourselves,” explains Matilda.
But it’s not without its caveats. Matilda and her colleagues are conducting research into the ways AI use infringes on data privacy and the ways companies or governments may use it to gain a disproportionate hold on people.
“If someone was able to monitor everyone and that person had all of the information, he/she could easily enforce their own agenda on others, so it's about the power of holding information. This creates the big fear from surveillance economies empowered by AI.”
3. AI is making business more socially conscious
AI opens new doors when it comes to problem solving, both for businesses and public entities, because it improves efficiency in decision-making. Matilda explains that these benefits also provide the means to tackle existing social challenges. Public institutions across the world are partnering up with the private sector to draw together plans to improve quality of life and wellbeing for citizens.
There are several examples of local and national governments that have started 'challenges' in which tech firms are invited to provide novel solutions to problems that cities or areas face.
The Norwegian government has introduced nationwide competitions to match municipalities that have identified a problem with firms that can come up with a solution. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has reached out to big companies to help London adopt smart city solutions to problems that the city faces.
“Many firms nowadays compete to provide solutions to major social challenges through technology. In the last decade or so there is a steady trend of increased engagement by businesses helping to solve social and sustainability challenges,” Matilda explains.
Combining higher accessibility of data with increasingly more powerful artificial intelligence solutions means innovation is able to move quickly by tying together the public and the private sector.
One of BI Norwegian Business School’s key research focuses is around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 17, which looks at strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing global partnerships to achieve sustainable development. This looks at civilizing business enterprises, ESG and socially responsible investment, bank lending rates, and monetary policy.
The challenges of tackling climate change, data privacy, and big tech, and the drive to make business more socially and ethically conscious, are huge. Artificial intelligence offers big potential in research, technology, and education, and will play a pivotal role in shaping business and society.
Therefore, advancing research and education by including sustainability topics in our everyday tasks is crucial for us to stay up-to-date with developments in the environment, emphasizes Matilda.
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