Digital Environmental Sustainability Ethics
Digital, artifical intelligence and data-driven technologies (DAID) have the potential to make a profound impact on human health, not only by providing tools for healthcare delivery, clinical support and biomedical research, but also by making systems more efficient and environmentally sustainable. At the same time, the pace of artificial intelligence (AI) development is staggering and the databases supporting such technologies have important environmental impacts: their heavy energy requirements contribute to high carbon dioxide emissions, and the reliance on minerals to develop their technological components often implies unsustainable and/or toxic mineral extraction and e-waste disposal. While improvements in energy efficiency and the move to renewable energy are underway, the pace of innovation could lead to a situation in which renewable energy sources are over-burdened, bringing to increases in non-renewable energy consumption. With concerns about climate change at their highest, it is timely and urgent to consider the environmental footprint of these technologies through responsible innovation processes.
This research strand aims at exploring the ethical aspects and implications in relation to the environmental sustainability of digital, AI and data driven technologies.
This area is inherently interdisciplinary. These are some of the questions we are dealing with:
- How to balance the trade-offs between DAID technologies benefits and environmental drawbacks?
- How does our knowledge and available data on environmental impacts of DAID technologies affect our ethical framing of the issue?
- Given that mineral extraction and e-waste practices often affect most disadvantaged populations, how to tackle issues of environmental justice in relation to issues of data justice?
- What are legitimate policy tools to govern this area in a democratic way?
- How has the policy narrative around digital sustainability changed over time and what have been the implications of this change?
- What is the public perception and understanding of the environmental sustainability of DAID technologies?
- How can the principles of Responsible Innovation be brought into industry to foster greater commitment to sustainability?
To address these questions (and generate new ones) we engage in several activities:
- we are conducting empirically grounded research;
- we are establishing a network of academics that are interested in these issues from different disciplinary perspectives;
- we are in the process of setting up a seminar series ‘Ethics, Data, AI and Sustainability’. Please watch our events page for any updates on this.
- Digital pollution: environmental sustainability of the digital revolution. One-day workshop, bringing together academics across many disciplines to discuss issues, form collaborations for further research. 13 May 2020. Access the workshop output online.
Participants: Federica Lucivero, Gabrielle Samuel, Gordon Blair, Sarah Darby, Tina Fawcett, Mike Hazas, Marina Jirotka, Mike Parker, Carolyn Ten Holter, Helena Webb, Hang Yuan
For more information about this research cluster and relevant activities please contact Federica Lucivero at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the project on Twitter: @DigitalSustain3