“The Promise and Peril of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics” is the final event of OSU150, the celebration of Oregon State University’s 150th anniversary. This is a day-long, future-focused symposium where OSU faculty and national experts will discuss the potential benefits, risks, ethics, and uncertainties of the emerging technologies of artificial intelligence. The symposium will take place on October 23rd at the LaSells Stewart Center and CH2M Hill Alumni Center.
What do AI and Robotics Have to do with Sustainability?
The 2001 Oregon Sustainability Act defines sustainability as “using, developing and protecting resources in a manner that enables people to meet current needs and provides that future generations can also meet future needs, from the joint perspective of environmental, economic and community objectives.” Sustainability is defined in many different ways, but this is essentially what Oregon State University means when referring to it in a broad sense. Using this definition as a lens, it is clear that technology, particularly AI, is having and will continue to have implications that are sustainable, unsustainable, and somewhere in between. The question is, will the net effect of AI manifest as increased sustainability, or decreased sustainability of resources and humanity. The potential society-transforming power of this technology is so great that some people believe it could be the answer to all of our sustainability shortcomings, such as climate change, our inability to meet the basic a large number of humans, etc. Others are concerned that AI will perpetuate the technological exploitation of Earth and widen the divide between haves and have-nots.
Experts at the upcoming symposium will discuss the potential for AI and robotics to transform agriculture, health care, natural resource management, transportation, arts and entertainment, the economy, public policy, and privacy. The trajectory of change in each these areas will have a massive impact on environmental, social (community), and economic sustainability.
For example, factory farming is a major contributor towards climate change, due to methane missions. Perhaps AI can help us produce more food, healthier food, and with minimal damage to the Earth. However, what if AI allows us to produce more healthy food, but the technology is only available to privileged communities, creating a disparity in nutritional and economic benefits? What if it allows us to produce enough food to fill every stomach, but the food is unhealthy and production comes at a great cost to the environment? These same questions can be posed for every item on the list. Technology, particularly AI, will undeniably have an immense impact on sustainability, but what kind of impact? This is the question that experts will be weighing in on at the symposium.