5 Ways AI is Helping the People and Planet

We all love inspiration. 

This is what this post is about. We’re a passionate bunch of people who love the value of making an impact and doing good for our community and people. Most of us go into this kind of work because we love improving things and making things better. 

You also see the potential for AI to address society’s challenges. 

Using AI for good changes the narrative that we often hear about. AI has been discussed in ways that can be used in unethical or harmful ways. However, there are many people who are directing their focus on experimenting with AI for the good of humanity. They’re building useful products or services that can make an impact which drives their mission forward.

I’d like to share a few of the many new projects every day. After scanning the internet and social media,  here’s what I found worth mentioning.

1. Predicting Substance Abuse

About 50% of young people who experience homelessness use substance drugs. Substance abuse is very prominent for people who experience homelessness because people are trying to cope with their situation. They want to numb the feeling of despair by using drugs to escape their reality. 

A common approach that social agencies use is peer-led programs. Peer-led programs match youth together with other youth for social connection and role models to get them off drugs. These programs are cost-effective but don’t produce the results to get youth quitting drugs. 

The quote that Jim Rohn says, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” is true. In some cases, these peer-led programs increase substance abuse. Some youth are not a good match for their peers when they are reinforced with negative traits and drug issues.

AI has been able to solve this problem. Youtube video with auto captionsAnamika Barman AdhikariYoutube video with auto captions, Associate Professor at the University of Denver applied theories of natural social influence using AI to match youth peers better. The AI exists to maximize existing friendships and minimize substance abuse. AI found ways to positively influence friendships and reduce the use of substance abuse to 40% to 70%!

This is hard for humans to do alone, especially in non-profits with limited resources. One couldn’t spend all the hours carefully matching youth together in a way that is effective. However,  AI has helped speed up the process. Most importantly, it is helping homeless youth stay sober with a pathway to getting them out of homelessness.

2. Disease surveillance system

What we all went through during the covid crisis is a lesson that we can all learn from. How can we get better at predicting the spread of diseases and finding ways to manage the spread by informing local communities immediately?

Wadhwani AI is based in India and is a social non-profit focused on helping the government address issues in underserved communities. They look for event-based activities such as scanning local news sources and extracting relevant disease events and reports. These form the data to build language models and more advanced generative AI systems. 

In the past, Google Alerts was the best option. And someone needed to read thousands of articles for clues on whether the article was worth paying attention to. Now, this isn’t something that is needed to do anymore. Taking the knowledge of the workers and researchers and building an AI system to manage thousands of data points can help alert authorities of pending spreads.

3. AI to encourage sustainable nature stewardship.

Humans often need to be incentivized for good habits. Motivation is needed to help build new habits that are the best thing for their community. Climate change is one area where providing incentives may work. 

When donors struggle to fund projects they trust and community projects need funds to meet their outcomes and impacts, the process is slow and bureaucratic. GainForest uses AI and blockchain to allow for stakeholders to distribute funds for projects that meet their mission and impact targets.

It’s a way for funders to feel confident about the work being done and see who is making a difference.

4. Making an impact with conservation work

AI can assist with environmental challenges. When it comes to gathering all the necessary data to help protect the planet and its natural resources, it can be cumbersome. 

There are communities determined to apply AI to conservation work, like Wildlabs. Featuring many inspirational projects happening around the world. One project, BurvNet, supports the Kakadu National Park, a World Heritage site in Australia. They use AI to monitor fish migration through the body of water and river channels during wet and dry seasons.

At one time, it was a job for someone to take a boat out to count the number of fish and vegetation in the area, but with the increased population of crocodiles, it was no longer safe to do so. 

Later, underwater cameras can record video footage of marine life for someone to access and monitor the situation in nature. However, it took time to review the video footage. AI was able to speed up the process by identifying various types of marine life.

5. Access for People with Disabilities

AI has been used to help people with disabilities gain access and inclusion into society. As a founder of a company using AI to help people with hearing loss be aware of sounds calling for their attention without the need to retrofit spaces.

Other AI technologies have supported children with learning disabilities to learn where traditional classrooms lack the expertise or resources to help teach them. AI has also worked to give people with no speaking ability the ability to communicate orally using AI, as Cognixion has created.

AI is not new for many people with disabilities. Many of our initial speech-to-text or text-to-speech applications started with early problems seeking to help people with disability and then later became mainstream.

There are many tools, software and apps that are using AI to put humans first and improve our community. What social cause do you see AI can help?