AI for the Planet

Today's powerful digital technologies can help us keep close tabs on natural systems, Microsoft's chief environmental officer argues in a Nature commentary.

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Artificial intelligence developed  to monitor human activity—algorithms  that link people to each other, to products, to information — could and should be used to generate critical environmental data, Lucas N. Joppa, chief environmental officer for Microsoft, argues in a comment piece published in the December 21/28 issue of Nature. Algorithms developed for low-cost camera software in smartphones could yield high-resolution maps to better plan local land use. Deep-learning algorithms can help ecologists inventory threatened wild species. Neural network algorithms can now help farmers automate precision weed-detection and removal systems. “Time is too short, and Earth’s resources too important, for companies such as Microsoft to ignore what is likely to be humanity’s biggest challenge yet: mitigating and adapting to changing climates, ensuring the resilience of water supplies and sustainably feeding a rapidly growing human population, all while stemming an ongoing and catastrophic loss of biodiversity,” Joppa writes.

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