What artificial intelligence means for sustainability

It’s hard to open a newspaper these days without encountering an article on the arrival of artificial intelligence. Predictions about the potential of this new technology are everywhere.  Media hype aside, real evidence shows that artificial intelligence (AI) already drives a major shift in the global economy. You now use it in your day-to-day life, as you look to Netflix to recommend your next binge or ask Alexa to play music in your home. And the benefits of AI are driving the technologies into every corner of the global economy. Look, for example, at the number of times the largest U.S. companies mention artificial intelligence in their 10-K filings. (See chart below, which measures mentions of “artificial intelligence” and related worlds in 10-K filings of S&P companies, from 2011 to 2016.)    For all of the debate about the dawn of artificial intelligence, there is little talk about what AI means for sustainability. Will AI mean a massive technological boost to sustainability priorities? Or will the rapid changes associated with AI give us a net negative sustainability outcome? By mining the narrative disclosures that companies make about their CSR activities, we can derive some insights into how AI is transforming…

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