The Green Corridor: Is AI Green?

by Timothy Foote, Director Transportation & Network APAC at Asendia and Founder of Susymbio

Artificial Intelligence for me can sometimes seem like just a buzzword. We see this term used perhaps too often. So much so that there are now several companies using the term “artificial intelligence” or “AI” to promote the sophistication of their rice cookers. But unlike many technologies that often get eclipsed by better solutions or machines, artificial intelligence is so general that it will most certainly not disappear.

The big picture is clear. Technology is pressing forward to advance the abilities of machines to take in information and independently make decisions autonomously. That can mean potentially amazing gains for efficiency in the future.

Empowering Machines Past the Human Mind

For centuries now, inventors and scientists have been working to build machines that could mimic what our minds do. True autonomy though of a machine to make decisions on it’s own could arguably only be shown to begin with a chess playing computer game invented in 1952. Arthur Samuel invented this first computer game that would see what move a person made and independently decide on a counter move on its own. In the 90’s, headlines about the game competitions between IBM’s Deep Blue computer and the chess grand masters continued to show the advances of AI technology.

Invention has since the 1950s gone way beyond checkers. The sophistication of computers that are able to learn from human experience or the environment has moved to see computers creating on their own. They are no longer simply reacting but extrapolating their own rules. This “on their own” part, is even pressing society to start defining what is human intelligence? We need to know this to be able to try and define when computers have surpassed us in working intelligence. This is not a question anymore of if it will happen, leaders in AI want to know when they can prove it has happened.
AI & Sustainability

There are pros and cons to the current use of AI tools. This is for the most part a result of the newness of the technology. Current AI services are learning about our world, but that requires a lot of data and processing power to answer even the simplest of questions.

The use of AI tools like ChatGPT has been clearly shown to use much more data center power than a simple online search done using search systems like Google. This increased data center use means not only more electricity but also water (which is used in cooling systems). AI is, at this stage in its development, a very thirsty technology. A study in University of California, Riverside calculated that a typical conversation done with ChatGPT requires 50cl of water (the amount of a small bottle of water). If you multiplied the that one conversation times the millions happening online, then it quickly becomes apparent that tools like ChatGPT should not be simply used as a search tool.

AI use in society is not just about people chatting with a computer though. In the logistics field, customer service tasks are more and more being done using conversational AI in combination with standard chatbots. By reducing the manpower needed to perform all of these tasks, it reduces the human made emissions associated with overall operations.

Getting Beyond Conversations

Beyond languages and conversation – AI computers have always outpaced humans when it comes to calculation speed and accuracy. The ability to take in millions of points of data and predicting patterns and interactions is where AI can go way beyond our mortal capabilities. It is for this reason that a critical research area for AI tech is centering on predicting our whether.

Humanity has never been able to predict the weather very accurately past the immediate area around them for a short period of time. More accurate forecasting is probably the biggest benefit that businesses and governments can see for AI’s use. Knowing the weather and having an idea on the climate in specific areas over the coming years essentially can provide societies with the ability to efficiently manage resources for optimal benefit. It can apply to all industrial sectors including the transportation and logistics sector. For example, if it can be known that an area will be short of water in the coming Summer, then alternative water systems can be staged and setup in order to meet the coming demand.

On an enterprise level, if supply chain managers were able to see into the future, then efficiencies for warehousing, transport and commodity costing would allow for better planning and execution. There would be in theory higher utilization of existing resources and therefore less emissions generated from inefficiencies.

AI is Evolving Faster Than We Are

In the last 70 years, the computer technology has gone from the ability to play checkers to replacing humans in dealing with customers. The speed of adapting AI and of AI decision making itself is getting more efficient every year. Our human brains in comparison have stayed in the same basic design for at least 35,000 years. Humans live by the rules of biology, where computer science and technology have the benefit to continue to evolve. For this reason, I’m guardedly optimistic about the possibilities that AI can have.

Currently, AI machines are constrained by the limits of human ingenuity of programming and human centered observation and knowledge sets. In the near future though, will the computer’s ability to learn and build create a completely different and unique brain of its own? If so, may be it will be able to come up with solutions that we desperately need to save and maintain our planet from irreparable damage. We must all keep an eye on how and where it is developing.

About the Author

Timothy Foote
Director, Transportation & Network APAC at Asendia and Founder of Susymbio

Tim has worked in management positions at multiple MNCs for more than 25 years, gaining expansive expertise in logistical operations. Tim continues to craft delivery solutions for many e-commerce clients at Asendia. Once a regional Head of Go Green at DHL eCommerce, Tim now works for customers to decarbonise their logistics by managing Asendia’s 100% carbon-neutral network.

To further promote a net zero future for the logistics industry, Tim created MOVE GREEN. This is a movement committed to greening the logistics industry during this time of transformation. Please join the companies making a pledge to become net zero by going to Susymbio.com for more details.

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