Musk, Bezos, and Climate Change AI

To listen to Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos talk about artificial intelligence is to realize that they both understand the potential of AI to restructure the way the world works.

They have both recognized the risks of an AI controlling the world under the influence of a dictator, and they already have the solution.  That is open source or distributed AI so that AI capability is available widely enough to neutralize threat of a takeover by one operation. Both of them have already set up what is essentially democratized AI in different delivery modes.

Both of them have demonstrated the immense potential of AIs and they understand that the future could be profoundly shaped by AIs.

The question then, is why haven’t one or both taken the next logical step, which is to set up AI clusters to deal with the challenges of global climate change? They must have thought of this, it is a no-brainer. Quite possibly, they don’t see saving the world as their mission. 

They both seem to go out of their way to rule themselves out of the political sphere, no surprise as they live in a country where millions believe Donald Trump to be a very stable genius. A genuinely stable genius would likely create a beautiful, clean space mission and explore the open possibilities of space. Oh wait…

Back home on earth, both have set up good conditions for the development of a governance assist AI cluster, and appear to be waiting for a grassroots push to action it. The problems that remain are the need for a new governance paradigm to mesh with the technology, and a huge financial and technical investment. Maybe we all need to step up to develop a prototype climate change to start to realize this practically unlimited potential.

Taking the politics out of a strategic climate change AI is the first step. It is essential to reframe such an AI as an operational global response to the existential threat of climate change rather than a political movement. The ethical framework of a climate change AI cluster is as important as the technical framework, and is able to be constructed with an extension of the global principles established by internet development over the past 20 years (my policy area). The threat of the old – evil robots, sinister AI manipulation – should not prevent the rapid development of the new and essential AI capability that could solve the climate change crisis, and it could also be utilized to deal with pandemics, natural disasters, and other recognized global threats.

How would the cluster work? Clearly, it could become a major economic driver globally, as data gathering, data authentication and analysis took off. 

Verena Fritz, World Bank, has laid out areas of concern to governance in the age of climate change in her blog. If we use these as a general guide, AI’s could address the following issues;

Climate related disasters, including floods, hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires. Needs: warning systems, firefighting resources, disaster response, fiscal response and fraud control, preparation in low income countries, strengthening local capacity to respond.

Adaptation and resilience issues, such as preparation of governance for a hotter climate, involving agriculture, energy systems, water, forestry, land and urban management, and infrastructure. Ensuring there are sufficient flood plains, forests, and structured urban spaces to withstand increased disaster risks. Public investment to increase resilience of infrastructure, managed to reduce political allocations and waste due to corruption. Increase collaboration with local governments who have detailed knowledge of areas of risk, and to consult citizens and be open and accountable.

Emissions reduction. Changing energy production and consumption should be the central theme of policy, with development of effective mandates and coordinating technical and economic policy with legal advice. Reduction of energy consumption and emissions by households, expansion of renewables, ensuring reliable power supply, calculating costs and spreading costs, settling legal disputes, equity and inclusion, allowing poor communities to maintain power supply and affordable transport. Compensation, but not just to the coal and oil industries (which must be shut down). Fairness in emission reduction (here we can look at investment strategy and trade penalties). New rules in international trade are needed.

My conclusions: Current global governance is unable to address the issues in a timely way to get to net zero in time.

AI clusters need to be set up to analyze and provide a coordinated response to the complex interrelated problems relating to climate change.

Global voting could confer legitimacy and put governments on notice that the earth’s sustainable future is an operational matter above national politics.

AI action strategies should be actioned in all geographic areas. National governments not on board should be sanctioned, and failed states should have their governance plans supported.

AI (I call it SAINT, strategic artificial intelligence) is the fast lane out of climate change. Who is going to build the fleet to get us on the way?