Perspectives on AI and Sustainability – Risks, Opportunities and Future Strategies

Helene von Schwichow, Charlotte Böhm

AI is increasingly discussed in the context of sustainability. But can AI really help to fight climate change and foster social change? We aim to take a closer look at the opportunities and risks of AI for sustainability and collaboratively draft strategies for more ecologically and socially sustainable AI.

Sustainability and digitalization are at the centre of scientific and political debates as the two significant social transformations of our time. Artificial intelligence (AI) in particular is increasingly coming into focus, permeating more and more areas of public and private life and is increasingly becoming part of sustainability debates. On the one hand, AI-supported technologies are creating a wide range of opportunities for sustainability, for example in the field of energy transition or agriculture. On the other hand, AI also poses many risks and challenges for the environment and society: Examples range from the high energy consumption and carbon footprint of machine learning systems up to automated discrimination. It is becoming more clear that technology development that follows the Silicon Valley-derived motto of "move fast and break things" is out of step with the current time and is increasingly being critically scrutinised. Sustainability as a central, political and societal goal, can instead serve as an orientation framework for the responsible development of AI (technologies) as well as a compass for its use. For this to succeed, both societal and technical perspectives on the intersection of AI and sustainability are necessary.

​​In a joint project of Hochschule München University of Applied Sciences of Munich and Technical University of Munich, we are researching the opportunities and interdependencies, and, together with an interdisciplinary group of students, will be developing technical and non-technical solution approaches to current challenges at the intersection of AI and sustainability.

This Meet-Up session has two goals:
Firstly, we want to bring together the somewhat fragmented scene of people and organisations working at the intersection of AI and sustainability and facilitate an exchange of ideas and perspectives.
Secondly, in an interactive format, we would like to identify the biggest current challenges and collect first ideas for improvement in terms of technology and regulation.