Where Does The Term A.I. Come From, And Can It Help Save The World, Or Will It Destroy It?

When Science fiction writer Asimov’s created his three fictional Laws: A robot shall not harm a human, or by inaction allow a human to come to harm, shall obey any instruction given to it by a human, and avoid actions or situations that could cause it to come to harm itself. This guide creators of robots to safeguard humans against mechanical malfunction or malign intent was published in his stories in 1940. It seems clear he was thinking along the lines of artificial intelligence that would emerge a decade later when the Scientific Community coined the term Artificial Intelligence.

Asimov revealed problems that might later confront real roboticists and information technologists attempting to establish rules for the behavior of intelligent machines. As information technology evolves and machines begin to design and build other machines, the issue of human control gains greater significance.


Autonomous Weapons

Asimovs fictionalized laws did not cover robots being programmed to harm humans deliberately, but it is already too late to stop weaponized robots. The issue is what boundaries will be adopted regarding fully autonomous robotic weapons that could potentially control and unleash weapons of mass destruction that could cause untold environmental damage and human misery.

Human Rights Watch has called for a preemptive ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. However, precursors, such as armed drones, are already being developed and deployed by nations including China, Israel, South Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Human Rights Watch

According to a recent report commissioned by the United Nations, a military drone that attacked soldiers during a battle in Libya’s civil war last year may have done so without human control. The fighters “were hunted down and remotely engaged by the unmanned combat aerial vehicles or the lethal autonomous weapons systems,” according to the report,

New York Times

Where does the term A.I. come from?

By the 1950s, a generation of scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers had the concept of artificial intelligence (or A.I.) culturally assimilated in their minds. Among these scientific visionaries was Alan Turing. Turing suggested that humans use available information and reason to solve problems and make decisions, so why should machines not do the same? This was the logical framework of his 1950 paper, Computing Machinery, and intelligence, in which he discussed how to build intelligent machines and how to test their Intelligence.

The Logic Theorist program was funded by Research and Development (RAND) Corporation designed to mimic problem-solving skills. It’s considered by many to be the first artificial intelligence program and was presented at the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence (DSRPAI) hosted by John McCarthy and Marvin Minsky in 1956. McCarthy coined the term at the event.

Harvard University

Rebalancing nature

Without a doubt, multiple factors threaten the balance of nature, causing untold and probably irreversible damage to our environment, seemingly heading us inexorably toward the extinction of many animals, birds, insects, a drastic drop in biodiversity, and potentially in the planet’s ability to sustain growth humanity- certainly at the scale it is today.

Climate change, rising sea levels, and warming oceans caused by rising CO2 levels are destroying ecosystems; further human actions like overfishing and intensive farming, illegal wildlife poaching, and trafficking are accelerating the issues. But maybe A.I. has the answers to combating some of these problems and possibly even reversing their effects?

A.I. can in the future be applied to thousands of issues affecting the environment. For example, using A.I. and data from NASA, researchers can identify patterns and monitor changes in land surfaces, such as decreasing sea area, ice caps surface area, which can be used to determine future risks. A.I. can also be used to monitor pollution and other contributions to climate change.

Ocean Data Alliance is an organization using A.I. and satellite images to track coral bleaching, ocean mining, and water pollution to keep oceans clean.

Towards Data Science

Combating wildlife trafficking

The Living Planet Index produced by WWF estimates that wildlife population sizes have dropped by 68 percent since 1970.

The illegal wildlife trade is a vast international organized crime — the fourth biggest illicit trade globally, worth over an estimated £15 billion annually. It’s often run by ruthless crime syndicates, involved in other organized crimes and corruption, and threatens the people who live and work alongside the targeted wildlife. It also affects the economic development of some of the world’s poorest countries.


Furthermore, as the world reels from two years of the Covid 19 pandemic, it is known that the issue is almost certainly a catalyst for zoonotic diseases (animal to human) ranging from Avian Flu and ARS to Ebola, all among zoonotic diseases that have also been recently linked to wildlife trafficking.

Now a potential solution to combatting the trafficking of live animals has been developed by Security screening technology manufacturer Smiths Detection in collaboration with Microsoft and London Heathrow Airport to test a first of its kind multispecies A.I. model designed to uncover illegally trafficked wildlife concealed in baggage and air cargo.

Smiths Detection

New A.I. Offers Facial Recognition for Grizzly Bears

Facial recognition is now being used to help research, monitor, and protect animals using a neural network-based system called BearID.


The developers submitted over 3,000 identified bear images to the algorithm to study to train the algorithm, learning to identify a bear in an image and remember which bear it was. Then, they asked the program to spot differences between bears in 935 more photographs. It had an accuracy rate of 84 percent.

Smithsonian Insitute

Last month, the U.N. Statistical Commission adopted a groundbreaking statistical framework that enables countries to measure their natural capital and better understand the immense contributions of nature to our prosperity.

The SEEA Ecosystem Accounting framework identifies the changes in ecosystems, their health, and the vital services to humans and pinpoints them on the map.

United Nations Artificial Intelligence saving the natural world

Just coming up to two centuries on from the creation of the Babbage Difference Engine, designed by Charles Babbage in 1822 as the basis for the modern computer, A.I. is now coming into its own. Will it prove to be part of the cure for the world’s ills or the most methodically efficient killer ever? The jury is out.

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Originally published at Upstack.co on Mar 13, 2022, by Symon Blomfield.




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