Artificial Intelligence “has enormous potential for social good. If the scalable power of Artificial Intelligence can be leveraged correctly, it can rapidly accelerate progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.” (ITU 2017)
This quote by Houlin Zhao, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), shows how organisations increasingly strive to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals and promote Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
AI can now unfold its potentials
According to Celine Herweijer from the World Economic Forum, it is a “historic moment” for AI: “All the pieces are coming together: big data, advances in hardware, emerging powerful AI algorithms, and an open source community for tools that reduces barriers to entry for industry and start-ups alike.” (Herweijer 2018) AI is being pushed forward from research and laboratories into our workaday lives. AI could therewith be widely used for applications ranging from identifying illegal deforestation, forecasting natural disasters, assessing health risks, to predicting crop yields and many more. (Berg 2018)
What can AI be used for?
Jeff Bezos, CEO and Founder of Amazon, is optimistic when it comes to future potentials and applications of AI. He states: “Artificial Intelligence is an amazing renaissance to technology, business and society. Machine Learning … will empower and improve every business, every government organization, every philanthropy … basically, there is not an institution in the world that cannot be improved with Machine Learning.” (Gandhi & Ehl 2018) It is noteworthy that Bezos does not only speak of the potentials for industries, but also for philanthropy and the society.
Among many people however, AI generates fascination and fear simultaneously. The benefits for businesses, consumers and governments are far-reaching and continuously expanding. At the same time, AI is and will be changing our society more rapidly than ever. (Gandhi & Ehl 2018)
Leveraging AI for the Social Good
It is therefore important to question whether AI will be beneficial to society as a whole or just to a privileged minority. Left unguided, AI has the potential to accelerate instead of mitigate environmental degradation and social inequalities. (World Economic Forum 2018, p. 6) As neuroscientist Frida Polli puts it, “AI has the potential to create a much brighter future for humanity, [but] it will only happen if we are intentional about developing it ethically” (Polli 2017).
This article series will assess in what way corporations can leverage Artificial Intelligence for Social Good.
Berg, N. (2018): Artificial Intelligence for Social Good. How AI is tackling some of the World’s Biggest Problems (Artificial Intelligence, AI, Social Good, Fourth Revolution). ASIN: B07PT3X75T
Herweijer, C. (2018): 8 ways AI can help save the planet. World Economic Forum. Available online at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/8-ways-ai-can-help-save-the-planet/, checked on 2/1/2019.
ITU News Magazine (2017): AI for Social Good. How artificial intelligence can boost sustainable development (2017). ITU News Magazine. Available online at
https://www.itu.int/en/itunews/Documents/2017/2017-01/2017_ITUNews01-en.pdf, checked on 1/2/2019.
Gandhi, S.; Ehl, C. (2017): AI & U. Translating artificial intelligence into business. [United States]: Sharad Gandhi, Christian Ehl.
Polli, F. (2017): AI and Corporate Responsibility. Not Just For The Tech Giants. Forbes. Available online at https://www.forbes.com/sites/fridapolli/2017/11/08/ai-and-corporate-responsibility-not-just-for-thetech-giants/#36b22f5b5d4b, checked on 03/20/2019
World Economic Forum (2018): Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for the Earth. Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth Series. In Collaboration with PwC and Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Available online at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/Harnessing_Artificial_Intelligence_for_the_Earth_report_2018.pdf, checked on 03/18/2019