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Governing AI: The Importance of Environmentally Sustainable and Equitable Innovation

November 2020

Citation: 50 ELR 10888

Issue: 11

Author: Henry Gunther and Julietta Rose

Artificial intelligence (AI) and complex machine learning algorithms have come to play a profound role in many of our day-to-day activities. We have finally landed squarely in the age of ubiquitous computing—a stage of computer-society integration first predicted in 1988 by Mark Weiser at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, in which computer systems would “vanish into the background,” weaving “themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” This fusion of digital technologies and blurring of the human and digital boundaries is a new form of industrialism. Similar to all other industrial revolutions, these advancements and rapid shifts in productivity are outpacing our understanding of the potential costs and benefits. As AI becomes more prevalent in all areas of life, we need to turn our attention to the interactions between AI and our physical environment, to harness the potential of this technology while avoiding environmental and societal harms. Technological revolutions may fail to materialize, but when they do, they may have unforeseen consequences that leave us little time to prepare.

Julietta Rose graduated from Berkeley Law in May 2020 and plans to work in finance, cleantech, and renewable energy. Henry Gunther is a third-year law student at Washington University in St. Louis and plans to work in environmental law and policy.

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