Artificial Intelligence for a Better Future

Why not join Bernd Carsten Stahl for the launch of his new Open Access book on Artificial Intelligence for a Better Future on 28 April, at 16:00 CET?

In his new book Artificial Intelligence for a Better Future, An Ecosystem Perspective on the Ethics of AI and Emerging Digital Technologies, Bernd Carsten Stahl raises the question of how we can we harness the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), while addressing potential ethical and human rights risks?

As many of you will know, this question is shaping current policy debate, exercising the minds of researchers and companies and occupying citizens and the media alike.

The book provides a novel answer. Drawing on the work of the EU project SHERPA, the book suggests that using the theoretical lens of innovation ecosystems, we can make sense of empirical observations regarding the role of AI in society. This perspective allows for drawing practical and policy conclusions that can guide action to ensure that AI contributes to human flourishing.

The one-hour book launch, co-organised by the SHERPA project, Springer (the publisher) and De Montfort University, features critical discussion between author Prof. Bernd Stahl and a high-profile panel featuring Prof. Katrin Amuns, Prof. Stephanie Laulh-Shaelou, Prof. Mark Coeckelbergh, moderated by Prof. Doris Schroeder.

The panel discussion will include a questions and answer session open to members of the audience.

You can find more information about the launch event and register here, and the book can be downloaded here.
If you would like to know more about the author’s work, you can find an introduction to some of his earlier work here.

A Video Interview with In4Art

Artwork from roots, by Diana Scherer


In November of last year I introduced readers to the work of Rodolfo and Lija Groenewoud van Vliet.

As the post explains, they founded the In4Art organization (back in 2015) with the mission to increase the impact of innovative art in society and the economy, seeing art as a powerful engine for responsible innovations.

The pair believe that art can act as an accelerator for innovation, as well as offering reflections on our fast-changing high-tech society. By translating that into art-driven innovations they aim to enable impact from economical, ethical, environmental, social and legal perspectives.

From the Website:

The project’s focus is to increase the impact of art in society and economy by bringing systematic change to the domains of circular economy, material research and next generation internet. Care and Environment, a mix of sustainable development goals and positive impact for the broad society.

How do they go about this? Well, In4Art creates space for experiments on the intersection of art, science and technology. It works to translate the outcomes into inspiration, strategic implications and responsible innovations, acting as a partner in the development of artistic prototypes into art-driven innovations and sharing their trans-formative potential, while building a network of forward looking, 21st century thinkers and doers.

The founders have created the  Art-Driven Innovation method, guiding In4Art and its innovation projects, collections, experiments and research, focusing on breakthrough technologies.

The Video Interview

As an investigator I find their approach really interesting, and was fortunate enough to be able to interview them (virtually), and with funding and technical assistance from the Bassetti Foundation (part of our agreement explained here), produce a video interview.

To learn more about their work, the artists and their artistic works (including the roots photo above), and to see me in action, watch the video.

The Jevons Paradox

The Paradox

We might like to think that as technology develops we will be able to address all sorts of environmental issues by making our things (machines of all types) more efficient. Cars will run on less or renewable fuel, electricity costs will come down as sustainable solutions are developed, batteries will run our transport systems etc.

There is however a paradox involved, known as the Jevons Paradox, developed in 1865 and since greatly debated and to some extent tested and seen (to some extent I stress).

In 1865, the energy of choice was coal. James Watt had devised a steam engine that was much more efficient that the previous Newcomen design. This new design led to production costs falling as less coal was used in the process, but what had not been foreseen was that coal use would dramatically increase rather than decrease.

The reasons are simple to see. As the materials (energy) become more efficient they become relatively cheaper. An article that required ten kilos of coal to produce now only required six, becoming cheaper to produce and so easier to sell.

The machines producing these goods became cheaper to run, so were used more (and more of them were built). The result was an acceleration in the use of coal, not a decrease.

Further Research into the Paradox

There are also lots of pieces of research that have looked into this paradox in more recent times. In 2005 a report came out (here, quite technical though) that included summaries of lots of this research.

A look at cars is quite instructive. It appears that as fuel efficiency improves, drivers chose to use their cars more. So there is a relationship between improved efficiency and extra miles. If (as some of this research suggests) US citizens travel 20 – 25% more in their cars because the costs are lower, but the car is only 15% more efficient, fuel use will actually go up.

This also effects a broader set of consumption measurements. The more miles we drive the more wear and tear we cause on our cars. The vehicles will have to be replaced quicker. This will also cause more wear to the roads, and on our tyres  and brakes (some studies suggest that 60% of new (efficient) vehicle pollution comes from tyres, brakes and other non-emission sources).

We have written a lot about energy use on the blog, and I have to agree with Christopher in his last post:

We have to use less power, but that might require looking at the problem from a few different view points, and looking into a few dusty corners that we might have overlooked.

Energy efficient production is not the answer without broader political and more widespread change.