JP van Oosten

AI for constructive transformation

Apr 16, 2024

How do you define success? Do you measure it by how much money you make (or help customers save), or maybe how famous you are? Or perhaps by the impact we have on society and environment?

I was inspired by Rutger Bregman’s latest work Moral Ambition, where he appeals to use our talent for the greater good. In line of his writing, I was thinking about the potential of AI beyond conventional metrics such as money saved.

Bregman touches on the AI alignment and the mitigation of the risks around AI. I propose that we don’t limit our vision by just safeguarding against negative impacts of AI. Instead, we should be leveraging it for a positive change. A “good disruption” if you will (see Stuchtey, Enkvist and Zumwinkel, 2016).

Here are a few ideas where we can benefit from the synergy between human expertise and AI, and might even transform industries:

🚑 Healthcare innovations: There are already a few diagnostic systems that use AI. But tools such as AlphaFold can predict the 3D structure of a protein. They are going to be instrumental in creation of novel treatments, drug discovery, etc.

🌍 Environmental stewardship: AI has been in the news rather negatively due to current energy usage of tools such as ChatGPT. But, we can also use AI to take steps towards sustainability. For example by calculating and reducing carbon emissions (e.g., Wisebrick).

⚡️ Energy: There are several ways AI can help in the energy sector. Notably, researchers are using AI in the quest for sustained nuclear fusion. But there are other things AI can be used for, closer to home, such as grid management, predictive maintenance, and optimising the energy consumption. Check out the aiGrunn podcast episode with Bram de Wit for ideas on this.

👩‍🎓 Education: AI can also be used to help educators understand the needs of those they teach. It can identify gaps in knowledge, help with personalised testing or make education more accessible. Of course, it’s necessary that a human teacher is overseeing all this in order to be most effective and safe. Or, you use AI for enhancing your own learning with flashcards, as I posted earlier.

And many more ideas of course, ranging from precision farming to urban planning, to disaster recovery. Of course, AI can be used in a wrong way, like you can also wield hammers in a wrong way. A post for another time.

Bregman advocates for “moral ambition circles”, encouraging us to work on ethical innovations. In line with that, I want to shift the focus from the potential for disruption to its capacity for constructive transformation. This goes beyond creating profile pictures or scenic imagery. We can build tools that collaborate with us on meaningful pursuits and that requires both domain experts and machine learning engineers.

💬 I’m curious to hear your thoughts on how we can use AI to shape our future. If you have any insights, please share them in the comments!

(Also posted on my LinkedIn feed)