Due to lengthy website rework compounded by our relocation, I have decided to resume writing the company blog. It was one of our most popular features, and it has been neglected for too long.
While working through our website updates, I kept wanting to write that Jade is a sustainable tool for creating a sustainable future. Tonight, I want to reflect on this sentiment.
Technology continues to find its way into every facet of our lives. In many cases, there is no clear long-term benefit to the end user or the planet.
This is technology for the sake of technology. For example, consider a fridge with interior cameras, processors, and exterior full-length LCDs to show you the contents without opening a door. What happened to glass? What happens when this connected device cannot receive software updates and becomes a monstrous paperweight?
Companies are building disposable items simply because they can. This is profiteering and is not sustainable.
A very simple definition of sustainability was provided by Sir Crispin Tickell: sustainability is "treating the Earth as if we intended to stay."
Today's technology is becoming electronic waste in record time as product lifespans shorten and connectivity enables the manufacturer to create artificial obsolescence.
Electronic waste is immediately dangerous to the whole biosphere and environmentally persistent. We do not even know the full extent of the potential harm.
Let's look at the latest source of future electronic waste.
I recently became aware of a debate regarding the ethics of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and worker displacement. The concerns are how far AI should go; how many humans should it replace. Here's a better question: is AI sustainable? Ultimately, no.
Here's the simple criteria for a litmus test:
1. Every technology increases our dependency on it. To what extent here? By definition, many forms of AI are supposed to make us completely dependent on it.
2. Entropy is always increasing. What is the footprint here? AI requires high-performance systems, widespread communication networks, and/or specialized processors. The required components are energy-dense in manufacturing and are "never fast enough." I can guarantee most will become electronic waste. Even if recycled, the recapture rate of electronics is dismal and insufficient as a long-term solution to this waste stream.
3. Is this a de-skilling technology? Just as smartphones have irrevocably altered our thoughts and actions (and not always in a beneficial way), some proposed applications for AI take this to a higher level.
4. Has there been consideration of long-term effects to people and planet? As with most technologies, profiteering is guiding the direction. There are dissenters, just as when psychologists used to warn us that smartphones are addictive.
This last two points are critical and reflective of the title in this section.
Neuroscience has shown that humans are inseparable from our biases. Believing otherwise is simply being unaware of or refusing to accept your biases.
How does human bias play into AI? Creation of any AI means that it is contaminated with its creators biases. Believing otherwise simply means that we have not noticed. We have convinced ourselves that AI will excel at many tasks because of its ability to make cold, hard, practical decisions without emotional attachment. This is a fallacy, since it carries the bias of its creators or trainers.
If it is a fallacy, we are creating electronic waste on a faulty premise. Will there be benefits, intended or otherwise? Of course. But, by the time we experience the problems (currently described by said dissenters), it will be too late to reverse course.
AI will never have human intelligence, even though we are peddling it as a replacement device for many human-powered jobs. You see, every decision that humans make is an emotional one. We perceive our decisions to be rational because we attach facts and figures to our viewpoint. These "flaws" define the fabric of humanity and make us what we are. It is not a problem to be optimized out.
The promise of AI to take over rote tasks and repetitive jobs myopically fails to understand the purpose of rote tasks and how they define and intertwine with our collective consciousness. Many people find great purpose and flow activities in their tasks.
Shift Sight and I cannot conclude that humanity's highest purpose is to use AI to remove emotional consideration, such as compassion and empathy, from decisions while slowly making our planet uninhabitable with electronic waste.
The most pragmatic thing to do for the sake of future generations is to immediately and aggressively adopt triple-bottom-line positions across industries. (But, of course, I am biased!) There is little room for pervasive AI in such a future.
For the Children
The triple-bottom-line comprises people, planet, and profit -- in that order. The intersection of these three is a sustainable company, such as Shift Sight. Most technologies and tech startups rarely expand beyond the profit bubble.
(To our discontent, edtech is increasingly focused only on profit. By the time someone discovers that the newest technology led to a poor learning outcome, it has already been e-waste for a year or more.)
We are working relentlessly for your children!
See you next week. Website updates and video development will continue behind the scenes.
Ty is a Founder of Shift Sight, LLC.