Mathematician Clive Humby famously coined the phrase, “Data is the new oil”. More than 10 years later, this catchphrase is still heard around the tech industry to emphasize data’s importance and exponential growth, leading to the inevitable transition to the fourth Industrial Revolution. If we were to expand this comparison to ‘Big Oil’ even further, then it is perhaps just a matter of time before data is churned to create toxic pollution, leaving an unjust future for both people and the planet. Paired with warnings of the inevitable “AI arms race”, such as the cautions given by Elon Musk, the future is often painted with grim visions, such as robots taking over the world, leaving the ‘goodness’ of AI in question.
There are pressing worries about the impact of AI on the here and now as well. For example, AI’s impact on the ‘future of work’ raises concerns of job loss, as well as highlighting important considerations regarding the integrity of privacy, unintended bias, and safety and security protections. Governments and policymakers are constantly evaluating the risks and rewards of technology on employment and society's health.
Even with full knowledge of these considerations and cautions, AI remains a critical technology for both transformation and impact. McKinsey’s report, Notes from the AI frontier: Applying AI for social good, demonstrates the diverse opportunities AI can deliver in a variety of domains. For this very reason, Tesla’s CEO launched Open AI, emphasizing the urgency of Artificial Intelligence to work with humans, not against them, to harness their potential and accessibility for a better future. Today, artificial intelligence is already part of many industries and disciplines, such as healthcare, education, and transportation, helping humans do more with less — faster, better, safer, and more informed than ever before.
We carefully considered these important topics when forming Slimmer AI’s founding principles and have further informed our approach to our Venture Studio process through Slimmer Labs. With a focus to develop AI that powers people and sustains the planet, I signed the Tech, a Force for Good Pledge, and we have joined the NL AI Coalition where we knew we would be in good company.
Our goal is to build innovative AI software products and ventures that power people’s work in an understandable, trustworthy, and ethical way.
Where is AI a ‘force for good’? And where could it be applied next for the betterment of people and the planet? Here are a few examples where AI is supporting services, platforms, and people and creating a positive outcome.
AI is not only capable of improving the work of people, but also the livelihoods beyond the workplace, in people’s communities, and homes.
In medicine, artificial intelligence offers better monitoring and diagnostic capabilities, such as in cancer screenings. For instance, Amsterdam-based Pacmed is leveraging AI to guide medical professionals in providing the best treatment options for their patients. Furthermore, AI has the potential to help hospitals run smoother, reduce maintenance costs, while delivering more affordable care.
With the help of AI, cities become “smart,” offering citizens a safe and thriving community. One of Slimmer’s home cities, Amsterdam, was ranked second in the Global Cities’ AI Readiness Index. Amsterdam recently launched an Artificial Intelligence Register, which is described as “a window to the AI systems that the cities use”. The register includes a program for monitoring parking compliance, automatic categorization of citizen-reported issues, and identifying fraud with holiday rentals. The first of its kind, the registry offers transparency in the algorithms, allowing citizens to know exactly “how” and “why” the data is used, instilling understanding and trust of citizens in the technology. Read more here.
With facial recognition becoming as mainstream as a fingerprint, solving crimes will only be enhanced in the future. However, it is up to the judicial systems and governments to ensure the integrity of personal privacy and compliance with the use of such powerful technology. Compliance is another rapidly changing area due to AI, with machines detecting transactions that are otherwise not possible for a human to process, even if they were Sherlock Holmes. At Slimmer AI, our very own Sentinels is focused on catching the “bad guys” by identifying anomalies in payment transactions to detect money laundering or terrorism funding.
Having a thriving society is not possible if we do not have a healthy and thriving planet. AI, unfortunately, cannot reverse the compounded impacts of the previous Industrial Revolutions, but it can help us build a more sustainable 4IR.
AI application in the energy sector ranges widely from traditional to renewable energy sources. For instance, major costs savings are possible with the offering of predictive maintenance by regional grid operators, with the ability to predict outages and defects before they happen. Furthermore, AI can help meet energy transition targets by monitoring supply and demand and offering energy from multiple providers. Some innovative startups in our neighboring city, Utrecht, are doing just that. Read more here.
With higher demands of goods to be shipped across the world, supply chains are among the highest contributors to adverse environmental and social impact. AI can optimize supply chains’ efficiencies by helping companies generate better demand forecasts and predict optimized routes of deliveries. Furthermore, AI can benefit by indicating the urgency of deliveries, adapting to real-time changes, and balancing route optimization with fuel efficiency to reduce the tradeoff between the bottom line and sustainability. Similarly, the technology could be utilized by NGOs, who monitor and assess supply chain performance, both ecologically and socially, helping maintain top standards for a healthy planet.
AI can further support conservation, climate adaptation, and mitigation. Dendra Systems, an Oxford-based startup, has built drones that can plant seeds in precise locations at a rate of 120 per minute with the help of AI. In September 2018, the drones were deployed in a field just south of Yangon, Myanmar, helping rebuild the mangroves, which are vital in preserving the natural ecosystem and habitats.
At Slimmer AI, we passionately believe that AI can and should be a ‘Force for Good,’ which can not only empower people to do their best work but also create greater job satisfaction and achieve far better business outcomes. We trust in our algorithms and the people that build them by upholding the highest standards of ethics and inclusivity, which are central to our designs and Slimmer AI’s founding principles.