The Triple Bottom Line of AI for a Sustainable Future

“No es que sea pesimista, es que el mundo es pésimo” - José Saramago

When considering the anthropogenic risk of human extinction, the story is all about the struggle for power and control. Adding to nuclear weapons, biotechnology, and climate change, human survival must face Singularity now. The root of the problem is unleashed greed and arrogance combined with ignorance, either real or willful, leading to the accumulation of economic, political, religious, and military power to satisfy immediate, unlimited, real and imaginary, needs and wants without regard for others or the environment. A possible solution is sustainable development with accountability: advancing social and environmental responsibility that is consistent with economic efficiency (triple bottom line sustainability). Assuming that education can tame greed and arrogance, this solution requires a paradigm shift in education and awareness of core human values. Setting limits to the accumulation of power and control implies real, inclusive, horizontal, participatory democracy including minorities and indigenous communities, not to rely on an all powerful, all knowledgeable, benevolent despot solution or Singularity which may take us faster to a self fulfilling prophecy of extinction.

For the economy, this solution implies to foster simultaneous competition and cooperation (coopetition), social entrepreneurship, and effective regulation of non competitive markets and the financial system. In society, more democracy, inclusiveness, solidarity, universal education and healthcare will be needed. For the environment, reforestation, a cradle to cradle approach for conservation, renewable sources of energy and construction materials, as well as effective regulation of highly polluting industries must be adopted; If the right incentives could be codified, a series of algorithms will allow machines to learn and expand human capabilities to pursue their own self interest compatible with social welfare in a more efficient manner. The result is enhanced creative destruction, a desirable paradigm for progress in a blue ocean.

All these efforts will render useless if denuclearization cannot be achieved and climate change cannot be reversed. However, with a better balance of power, universal education, and the help of extended intelligence derived from human compatible AI we might finally have a better chance to solve  all of these issues at once and be on the right path to a more sustainable evolution of life on earth.