10 Ways AI Is Used For Good This Year

AI need not threaten humans; can work with us to solve big problems. Still feeling a little wary of algorithms? Last year we collected a series of stories that illustrate the many ways this technology can have a positive impact.

Combating Climate Change

This year, AI has demonstrated its ingenuity as a powerful tool to help prevent climate change from causing irreversible damage to the planet; this is something that requires more than one solution. Researchers are using artificial intelligence to visualize the future effects of floods and wildfires, improve climate decision-making, monitor forests and share data. Other climate projects powered by AI include building digital twins of the planet and mapping thinning sea ice to test the impact of different warming-mitigation policies.

Improving Access to Nutrients and Water

Without access to a variety of foods, people around the world are at risk of malnutrition and other health problems. A new model identifies where populations are more likely to suffer from nutrient deficiencies. Meanwhile, in many US cities, the presence of toxic lead pipes prevents access to clean water. A new algorithm is helping local governments find and eliminate these underground threats by predicting which homes are most likely to be found in them.

Detecting Lethal Weapons

Buried landmines kill thousands of people each year. But researchers are working on a system that uses drone imagery and machine learning to remotely detect unexploded ordnance to safely neutralize it. Of course, drones themselves can also be used for malicious purposes – but that’s another artificial intelligence algorithm inspired by the fly eye can detect these threats.

Passing Video Players

An AI program has defeated human video game champions in the ultra-realistic racing game Gran Turismo. This will help game developers give opponents a valuable automated in-game foe. On top of that, self-driving car researchers can use the success of the program to inspire their own work in the real world.

Diagnosing Life-threatening Health Problems

This year, researchers completed a comprehensive field test of an AI program to detect sepsis, one of the leading causes of death in hospitals. The results show that the program has reduced health complications and deaths from sepsis, and has received positive feedback from medical professionals who have used it. Human diseases are not the only diseases that artificial intelligence can fight; Another algorithm was used to diagnose bacterial infection in olive trees.

Cracking the Protein Code

Every function in the human body relies on proteins made up of long chains of amino acids folded into complex structures that do the work encoded by our genes. But what shape this chain will take is difficult to predict and may take years to unravel – if you’re a human. Last summer, Google’s company, DeepMind, announced that its AI program AlphaFold has predicted the molecular structures of almost every known protein. That’s about 200 million estimated forms of protein. This colossal achievement solves one of the most complex problems in biology and has earned the creators of artificial intelligence a Breakthrough Award of $3 million.

Reviewing Wine and Beer

Want to preview the experience of sipping a dry white wine or a fruity sour beer? Language generation AI can help you decide what to drink by combining existing reviews with condensed, summarized descriptions. And its creators say the program could be expanded to distill reviews of many other products.

Predicting Viruses with Pandemic Potential

With the onset of cold weather, COVID cases have started to rise again. Researchers analyze viral mutations using an artificial intelligence tool to understand what the disease-causing coronavirus will do next, and predict when a new variant like Omicron will emerge and become dominant. Such forecasting tools can do more than help manage the current pandemic. Other algorithms have been programmed to study viruses currently spreading in the animal kingdom to determine which ones can jump to humans, potentially helping researchers prevent the next pandemic.

Preventing Illicit Drug Development

New designer drugs may produce similar effects to known recreational drugs, but with minor molecular differences. Because designer versions are chemically different from the original drugs, they may bypass some government regulations regarding these substances. It can also have unexpected debilitating effects on health. So many molecules have intoxicating potential that banning these substances required regulators to play a game of hitting the mole – but now artificial intelligence has stepped in. The researchers used an algorithm to create a database of molecules that could be developed as potential designer drugs. It could allow governments to preemptively ban these dangerous substances.

Conservation of Biodiversity

There is a tendency to think of technology and nature as conflicting forces. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Artificial intelligence algorithms can analyze data from ecosystems at risk to measure the biodiversity of that environment and support conservation projects run by Indigenous groups. Facial recognition, another AI-powered technology, helps researchers track mountain lions without disrupting their solitary routines.

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