1st Edition

Artificial Intelligence and the Environmental Crisis Can Technology Really Save the World?

By Keith Ronald Skene Copyright 2020
    276 Pages
    by Routledge

    276 Pages
    by Routledge

    A radical and challenging book which argues that artificial intelligence needs a completely different set of foundations, based on ecological intelligence rather than human intelligence, if it is to deliver on the promise of a better world. This can usher in the greatest transformation in human history, an age of re-integration. Our very existence is dependent upon our context within the Earth System, and so, surely, artificial intelligence must also be grounded within this context, embracing emergence, interconnectedness and real-time feedback. We discover many positive outcomes across the societal, economic and environmental arenas and discuss how this transformation can be delivered.


    Key Features:

    • Identifies a key weakness in current AI thinking, that threatens any hope of a better world.
    • Highlights the importance of realizing that systems theory is an essential foundation for any technology that hopes to positively transform our world.
    • Emphasizes the need for a radical new approach to AI, based on ecological systems.
    • Explains why ecosystem intelligence, not human intelligence, offers the best framework for AI.
    • Examines how this new approach will impact on the three arenas of society, environment and economics, ushering in a new age of re-integration.



    Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things

    Nothing new under the Sun

    Oh, for a nice cold soda: the birth of the internet of things

    The two-month, ten-man project to transform the world

    Getting to grips with the jargon: symbolic and non-symbolic AI

    Should I Stay or Should I Go? Ethics in AI

    Choosing an ethical framework

    The strange case of Asimov’s laws

    Free will and moral judgement

    The confused Owl of Minerva: dangers of a moral vacuum

    Who’s in charge of the big bad wolf?

    What should a declaration of AI rights look like?

    Gender, Race, Culture and Fear

    Gender issues in AI

    Racial issues in AI

    Cultural issues in AI

    Fear and loathing in AI

    The Thinker: Human Intelligence

    Human intelligence: Carolus Linnaeus and his wise, wise men

    So what is human intelligence?

    Philosophy and intelligence: the framing of our thoughts

    Other Modes of Intelligence: Thinking Outside the Human Box

    Animal intelligence: Machiavellian sentience and the wisdom of the swarm

    Plant intelligence: headless, brainless, dispersed intelligence

    Microbial intelligence: gene-swapping revelry in the quorum

    Ecosystem intelligence: systems thinking in the cathedral of thought

    Systems are non-linear

    Systems are emergent

    Systems are sub-optimal

    Systems rely of real-time feedback

    Highway to Hell: The Existentialist Threat Facing Humankind

    A brief history of our path towards destruction

    The five clear road signs that point towards criticality

    Why ecological damage matters to us

    Adam Smith and his invisible hand

    Kuznets and his curve: how ninety five percent speculation led us badly astray








    Forget the Romans. What has AI ever done for us?

    AI and economics: the best of things or the worst of things?

    AI and society

    AI and the environment

    Technology and sustainability: bellicose bedfellows or Romeo and Juliet?


    Imagining a New World

    The swallow whose nest was stolen: a salutary tale

    Blinded by the bling: dashboard dogs and a disappearing sea

    What needs changed and what change do we need?

    The chains that bind: taking responsibility for our footprints

    The Ogiek people and the new, improved invisible hand

    Lessons from the edge of the world: The St Kildan legacy

    The Garden of Eden complex: how not to fix the world

    The three cornerstones: diversity, resilience and integration

    The central role of AI in feedback: shaping our new world


    Barriers to Change

    The five philosophical barriers

    Structural barriers to change

    The seven dragons: psychological barriers

    How AI can help overcome these barriers



    The nature of transition

    Studies in transition

    Why societal change is key

    How to manage societal change

    Requiem for the King of Phrygia





    Born in the historic city of Armagh in Ireland in 1965, Keith is a former Association of Rhodes Scholars of Australia Scholar, carrying out field research across the planet, from Kenya to the Carpathian mountains, from the Scottish Highlands to southwest Australia and from Vietnam to Trinidad. In 2010, Keith established the Biosphere Research Institute (www.biosri.org), becoming its first director. The Biosphere Research Institute does cutting-edge research on environmental, economic and societal sustainability, focusing on a fundamental dialogue around our place in the Earth system.

    "To call this text wide-ranging would be a significant understatement, and Skene has set himself an enormous task. Across 10 discrete sections, he seeks to define and illustrate not only the nature of human, and non-human, intelligence – but also the diverse nature of ethical debate, the nature of economics and sustainability, the myriad threats that human exploitation poses to the biosphere, how these could be addressed and the dramatic structural changes to society that would be necessary.
    Moving beyond humanity to the (perhaps vexed) question of intelligence as a broader concept, Skene explores the concepts of swarm intelligence and the wisdom of crowds, culminating in an exposition of how 'ecosystem intelligence' might be employed as a tool in developing sustainable global solutions to environmental management – through the agency of artificial intelligence (AI) systems. This book is a passionate manifesto, a call to arms, by someone who clearly cares deeply about his subject."
    — John Gilbey, Department of Computer Science, Aberystwyth University, An Excerpt from Times Higher Education

    "In this remarkably cross-disciplinary study, environmental biologist and prolific science communicator Skene (Biosphere Research Institute) challenges the notion that technological advances such as applied artificial intelligence necessarily foster inequity and environmental degradation. The book includes hundreds of compelling examples, among them the success of big data in increasing the efficiency of agriculture while decreasing environmental cost and its potential to promote ethical consumption by supporting consumer alerts with respect to the environmental and social impacts of individual purchases. The book is extensively referenced but reads as a thought-provoking popular science book rather than a strictly academic work. As such, it will engage the general public and inspire lively classroom discussions."

    D. P. Genereux, Broad Institute of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Choice, Dec 2020 Vol. 58 No. 4