Chatham House’s Hoffmann Centre for Sustainable Resource Economy in collaboration with DeepMind Ethics & Society are hosting a dialogue on Artificial Intelligence and Industrial Transformation to be held at Chatham House on 22 January 2019.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to address a defining issue of our time – the safeguarding of Earth’s natural resources. On our current pathway, global use of materials will increase from 85 to 186 billion tonnes per year by 2050, placing enormous and unsustainable pressure on ecosystems, water resources and the climate. Dramatic improvements in the way we consume and produce natural resources are also essential to tackle climate change.
This roundtable will explore how AI could prove a powerful tool for aligning resource-intensive industries with environmental sustainability goals. By uncovering patterns in overwhelmingly complex datasets and identifying promising ideas and strategies, the hope is that AI can unlock action where progress is currently too slow – whether by finding deep efficiencies in industrial processes, cutting waste from supply chains, predicting consumer demand, or identifying new material substitutes.
The collective impact of these technologies could enable companies and societies to do more with less, and better, even leading to a decoupling of resource use from economic growth. But harnessing the potential will require new forms of collaboration and dialogue across all stakeholder groups (including governments, cities, businesses, labour and civil society) to create policy space for the most sustainable and equitable options to become the new business-as-usual for our growing population.
It will take a concerted effort to achieve this kind of positive impact at scale. Applying AI to real-world industrial processes – involving many materials, value chains and geographies – is a highly complex task. Despite emerging evidence that AI can deliver state-of-the-art efficiency improvements, its uptake in traditional industries – such as thermal processing in cement, and electrolysis in metal production – is today often limited to specific areas, rather than broader systemic problems.
This raises important questions such as: What is the scale of the opportunity for tackling natural-resource challenges using AI, and how to prioritise? What incentives and regulations are needed to ensure an inclusive sustainable resource economy? How can we deploy AI in a way that addresses complex local and global challenges around natural resources, while also equitably distributing the benefits and minimizing the risks?
This is one of a series of events on the potential beneficial use of AI to help deliver a sustainable resource economy. The first event of this series focused on sustainable land and food systems. The final event in the series will focus on the role AI may play in contributing to a revolution in global logistics.