Throughout human history, technologies have been used to make people’s lives richer and more comfortable, but they have also contributed to a global crisis that threatens the Earth’s climate, ecosystems, and even our Your survival is also at risk. Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, the University of Kansas and Oregon State University suggest that the best way forward for industrial civilization may be to embrace more technological advances, but to do so with greater awareness of their potential drawbacks.

In a recently published paper entitled “Scientists’ Warning on Technology”. Journal of Cleaner Productionresearchers, including Bill Tomlinson, UCI professor of informatics, stress that innovation, particularly in the areas of clean energy and artificial intelligence, will come with risks but is the most effective way to ensure a sustainable future. May be.

“Since prehistoric times, technologies have been created to solve problems and benefit people; think of improvements in agriculture, manufacturing and transportation,” Tomlinson said. “But these developments have had a dual nature. While meeting the human need for food, farming has led to environmental degradation, and our factories and vehicles have added massive amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. causing.”

Co-author Andrew W. Torrance, Paul E. Wilson Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas, said: “Technology is often presented as a panacea for environmental crises. It’s not. Nevertheless, it’s an important will play a role. Any solution. That’s why the role of technology must be taken seriously, rigorously measured, modeled and understood — and then interpreted in light of population and prosperity.”

He added, “I am very optimistic about the beneficial role that biology can play in helping humanity find a sustainable place, but [I’m also] Cooler or other, less promising outcomes remain possible.”

Scientists’ warning concept dates back to the early 1990s, when the Union of Concerned Scientists published a letter urging people to change their stewardship of the Earth and its resources “if widespread Human suffering is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irreversibly distorted.” The second warning, in 2017, was signed by more than 15,000 scholars in various scientific fields. Since then, dozens of additional advisories have been published, with 50 currently in preparation.

“Scientists’ warnings bring together a compelling narrative of humanity at a crossroads, urging us to recognize the fragility of our biosphere and take a collective action to protect our future through appropriate, science-based measures. Take responsibility,” said co-author William Ripple, Oregon. State University Distinguished Professor of Environment, who led the essay writing project.

gave Journal of Cleaner Production The warning outlines two main ways to reduce, mitigate or eliminate fossil fuel use. The first is infrastructure alternatives, replacing coal and natural gas-fired power plants with renewable resources such as wind and solar, and abandoning internal combustion engines in favor of electric motors. This change will also include the widespread adoption of electrical appliances in homes and the replacement of gas furnaces and water heaters for heat pumps.

Another way to move humanity away from fossil fuel burning centers on a concept called “non-design,” the deliberate rejection of technology and consideration of alternatives that do not rely on labor-saving human inventions.

“People are often resistant to change, though, especially in contexts where they’ve come to rely on particular goods and services,” Tomlinson said. “Adopting non-design will require guiding people toward new cultural narratives that don’t rely on heavily affective systems.”

In addition to clean energy technologies, Warning’s authors see artificial intelligence as a way to point human civilization toward a more sustainable tomorrow. He mentions how AI is currently being used to connect wildlife habitats, monitor methane emissions and improve supply chains. Tomlinson and his colleagues said that AI offers a much lower energy-intensive alternative to laborious tasks such as writing and illustration, and that computers are becoming adept at writing code, which “complicates the complexities of the more than 8 billion people living on Earth.” ” can be useful in managing According to the paper.

But Tomlinson noted that AI is not without risks, such as the possibility of runaway energy consumption, partisan biases in human societies and AI systems becoming so autonomous and powerful that they pose a real threat to humanity.

“It is important that humans replace new technologies that are harmful to the environment,” he said. “But we need to be alert to potential future damage and try to minimize it as much as possible.

“In our scientists’ caveat, we identify an array of potential future risks from both electricity and AI. We believe these findings are far less troubling than the potential benefits of these technologies. Time has potential benefits for addressing the environmental crises facing humanity.”

This project received funding from the National Science Foundation.