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We are at a crossroad (UN, 2020). We could embrace the technological advancements of AI and progress forward or we could deny and slow down the progress of everyone around us. Today, humanity experiences a lot more crises than ever; climate crisis, food security crisis, healthcare crisis, wars, economic inequality, and so much more. What do you think the future we leave for our kids could look like? The reality could be hard to imagine. Even though the scientists and other experts have a better understanding of the scenario, some of us are still not yet ready to even acknowledge it. And after all the warnings and urges by these professionals to make a change, some of our leaders are even good at denying it. But as a responsible human being sharing the burden of this truth, how do we bring the most from our fights for change?
We have all been working really hard for years to bring even the slightest change to these issues. We have even adopted Sustainable Development Goals to guide us to the right path. We have created bodies to keep checks and find new solutions. Since most solutions are already making slight changes and are seen successful, we have not looked at new places for novel solutions to improve its efficiency. That is why we are trying hard to embrace the support of AI, to multiply our efforts and increase the efficiency of everyone working towards the goals. Although in the past newsletters (MI News), we have outlined the benefits of AI technologies in aiding our current lives, we have not yet explored how this has been a great tool that humanity needed the most at this point of time to have the beautiful future we envision for our kids. Therefore, as an avid reader of our newsletter, before we start this one, we would like to ask you a question; Do you believe that AI could be a tool that would act as a catalyst for the changes we want in this world?
If you do, we are happy to see that our work is fruitful, but if you are still a bit skeptical, here are a few examples from our work. We hope that by the end of this newsletter, we will instill a small change in your mind.
Fight for our planet - Climate action (SDG 13)
AI alone might not be as powerful in fighting for a sustainable clean planet as any other solutions. But the potential of AI when combined with any existing or proposed solutions is huge. AI has the power of automating with great efficiency and with ease. Combine this potential with any existing solutions such as recycling. We have been recycling for decades now, but the results are still not really at the marks we expected. What if we could implement AI in recycling facilities? Organizations have demonstrated that AI integrated recycling facilities can provide great results in efficiently recycling (CNBC, 2023). Wouldn’t that make a huge difference?
Now at MI4People we have been using the potential of AI to identify marine litter. Patches of garbage three times the size of France are floating around in our oceans. The whole population of the world is responsible for it, by littering plastic all around, which ends up in waterways and finally in oceans. But since it does not bother us knowingly with any of our day-to-day lives, we are not yet worried. But have we thought that it is indirectly harming our health? We have been ingesting microplastics the size of a credit-card every year (CNN, 2019). The flow has been clearly explained in a report by BBC in 2023. So how can we clean it? Since it is not seen everyday by us, we must rely on satellite imagery and that is where MI4people’s solution comes into play.
We use satellite images to detect marine litter in real time using AI. Our project along with the help of a team at Alexander Thamm [AT] works to geolocate plastic floating in the ocean without the actual need for conducting physical surveys, which tend to be a lot costlier. The funds for the survey could rather be diverted to cleaning the oceans. Even though the task of cleaning is the most crucial, we contribute to the small steps that we possibly could with the help of the tools that are available to us, to initiate the change. This does not only help us to clean the oceans, but this would also be available to environmentalists and other authorities for research purposes at no cost. This would be impossible without the help of AI.
Fight for food security - Zero Hunger (SDG 2)
Food security has been another critical issue in our society. As our population keeps growing and demands higher amounts of food to satisfy even basic nutritional requirements, we need to produce more with the available land. This also comes at a point when science has shown that, over the centuries our soil fertility has declined, moreover we are losing more cultivatable land to the production of feed for cattle and poultry. This would mean that our food production should either be ramped up or should be much more efficient than it ever was to achieve food security. It has become an accepted method of farming to use chemicals and other methods to improve yield, reducing crop diseases, etc. Science has shown that this is in turn more harmful to the soil and hence again depleting the quality of the soil and ability for humans to produce food. This would never seem to be a long-term sustainable solution to fight against hunger.
But what if we could use AI powered tools to improve our farming systems? AI tools are already being used to eliminate weeds in the farms. There are newer types of farming systems implemented using very less land and water. Even a container could be turned into farmland with the help of AI that would regulate the light, temperature, flow of water, etc. to improve food production. Such farming methods combined with newer technologies could improve our yields to match our needs.
We at MI4People are also working on a solution to improve food security in developing countries. Our systems could analyze the images of a piece of land of small farmers to determine its soil quality. Usually, soil quality testing would cost a lot of time and money, but this process would make it easier. To simply evaluate the quality of the soil, we use the help of satellite images again. The system, after learning with the help of human support in analyzing the quality of the soil, could determine the best farming methods needed such as the selection of crops, fertilization timing, etc. This can further be combined with other data-based decision-support systems to improve yield. These in turn would become a much-needed tool not only to simplify a farmer’s life, but to feed the growing population of our world.
Fight for inclusivity - Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10)
Inclusivity is a broad term that defines the rights and freedoms of individuals to be included into a society that they couldn’t be part of due to certain barriers. But AI is a great tool that helps to overcome this challenge. Be it challenges of any kind; AI has the potential to be the right catalyst to bring in more innovative solutions to a more inclusive society. We have discussed some of its benefits for education in one of our previous newsletters. It is understood that AI could enable, in most cases, for kids with special needs, the same opportunities as any other kids without other human support. This is also possible in cases of other ages. Be it age related issues or any other health related issues such as color blindness, hearing disabilities, limited movements of body parts, etc. Most of these can be addressed to a great extent with the help of AI tools. There are already trials being conducted to bring back movements to people who were paralyzed. Since these kinds of innovations relate to humans and human bodies, they would require a lot more time to be adopted as they have to be greatly regulated. But there are also simpler tools that require merely AI supported tools to make the lives of such people simpler.
One such AI tool is being developed by MI4People volunteers as well. We help the visually challenged to interpret the results of personal medical strip tests using mobile devices. Even though it was originally developed to understand the results of covid test strips, this could be modified to interpret other strip test results as well. This application would enable its users to conveniently understand the results of test strips in the privacy of their homes without being dependent on others. Such tools would ensure that visual disabilities would never be a burden in compromising their rights to secrecy.
Fight for knowledge- Quality education (SDG 4)
Information is a prime resource among our generation; more access to information would mean more knowledge. Even though businesses had seen a great value in access to information, governments or education systems often could not understand the value of it to the full potential yet. The quality of libraries was a defining factor in the knowledge of that society even during ancient times. They created civilizations that were the most sought-after places of their time for the value of knowledge they held. People from around the world have traveled across the globe to these destinations seeking knowledge. This is no more required with the help of internet, because with internet’s capabilities today’s knowledge can be accessed from anywhere at any time.
But how could this knowledge be transferred and used by everyone equally? Knowledge is always created in different languages and stored in different regions. Even though knowledge is available digitally on various platforms, the access to these resources might be limited by various factors such as geographical differences, or even political agendas, and so on. But AI tools would enable students from across the globe to have an AI tutor make use of these resources explain this by real time translation, content distillation, and so much more. When researching contents related to a specific topic, AI tools could help to understand the whole article or a book in a simple outline in the language of our choice. It could also help us write in various languages, learn using various resources and so much more. It even enables multimodal learning techniques for various types of learners in the voice of the creator who might have died centuries ago. It even helps teachers understand the weaknesses of the students and assess them early on to provide them with better attention.
We at MI4People are also working hard to ensure that talented kids of weaker backgrounds would get real opportunities to learn in the best way with the help of financial aids. We are working on a solution using AI to understand the dropout among students of a particular program in Vietnam to help corresponding organization to identify students at risk of dropping out, to approach them before they actually drop out and convince them and their parents to continue education. This in turn helps give proper attention to working on possible scenarios with the student to help them stay until the end making the best use of it.
We are also working on a special project that makes important regional economic, social, and climate-data available and understandable for everyone. Even though the program is launched in German language with focus on Germany, the scope would be further expanded to other regions of Europe and with the cooperation of others, the whole world. These data would mean that everyone would get access to the knowledge without any restrictions of going through different departments or geographical boundaries or so. Everything would be conveniently and safely available for the use of all.
Fight for healthcare - Good health and wellbeing (SDG 3)
With the help of the latest AI tools, healthcare has become much more accessible and accurate (WEF, 2023). In the past decades, even though the situation in developed countries was significantly better, the conditions in developing countries were hard. The access to healthcare itself was truly limited in some rural areas. The healthcare professionals available in the region would either not be equipped with enough tools or supporting staff. But AI tools have come to change that now. With AI integrated clinical decision-support systems, doctors are able to provide much more effective diagnosis. This has become useful to even primary healthcare centers in many countries where the professional might not be an expert in a particular fieldof medicine but could get an expert opinion from such tools. This has also helped many to track their symptoms over time to even understand a life-threatening disease even before it gets worse. This might not have been possible within a typical rural healthcare setting with just human decision makers, as this could be a rare case for them.
AI assisted tools have also become useful in providing therapy sessions and companionships to improve mental health of our society. Even though a typical therapy session is of great use, access to such good professionals is not easily available. But AI powered applications have become more than a therapist, even a comforting friend to some. A lot more organizations are currently working on fighting one of the biggest challenges of our generation, Loneliness. When human connection is lacking, sometimes even an AI companion could be a great relief.
We at MI4People are developing a healthcare solution that should be applied in developing regions where a professional radiologist is lacking. In a condition where the radiologist’s opinions matter the most, the lack of such professionals makes the diagnosis trickier. But with the help of AI, the system learns from different images to analyze the radiographs and could provide an accurate diagnosis to the physician in a setting where a radiologist is absent simply with the help of a mobile device.
These tools would not have been possible without the creation of artificial intelligence that we impart to the systems. Just by training the systems to learn to intelligently judge or conduct other processes, we are creating freedom to be much more productive. AI enables us to engage ourselves in other productive tasks, become more efficient and win more precious lifetime for our beloved. This is also true in the case of our most sophisticated fields such as medicine and engineering. This does not indicate that they could replace us in any possible manner. This tool makes us much more valuable.
We humans, as always, are very skeptical about any changes. At first, we might feel reluctant towards these ideas. But that is because of lack of education on the benefits of these tools. We are rather surrounded by words of fear of the dangers AI poses. This is why we at MI4People strive even harder to make the benefits of AI heard even louder. Our volunteers put in their best efforts to make use of AI and its benefits not only to reach the deserving population but also others who would be skeptical about AI-related transformation processes. To accomplish such a goal, we have launched a podcast to ensure that the knowledge about AI for good would reach everyone. We have already released our first episodes on the discussion of AI for good. Our first episode with Marc Haarmeier on how AI can be good for humanity, as well as another episode on the motivations of working on AI for good by our volunteers Cara Heydt and Ekaterina Gikalo, are available on popular media platforms like YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and Google Podcasts. We hope you would listen to these and let us know your valuable comments and feedback on the same.
We would like to end this newsletter with a simple thought; Do you think now that AI could be a great aid in supporting all the hardworking humans who fight for a change in this world? We believe in the potential of what good AI could provide to our world. This is the vision we believe in, and it is our mission to work on it and let you know the goodness of AI. If you too believe in the goodness of AI, we would like to welcome you to our team. If you are still skeptical about AI, we welcome you to follow us on LinkedIn and our other channels to keep informed and educated about these tools. We are also willing to listen to your feedback and all other questions related to AI for good. You could even propose great ideas as a solution for any problems that you think we could address with the help of AI.
With best wishes, we look forward to hearing from you!