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Harnessing Artificial Intelligence to Target Conservation Efforts

The smart­phone is the ulti­mate exam­ple of a uni­ver­sal com­put­er. Apps trans­form the phone into dif­fer­ent devices. Unfortunately, the com­pu­ta­tion­al rev­o­lu­tion has done lit­tle for the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of our Earth. Yet, sus­tain­abil­i­ty prob­lems are unique in scale and com­plex­i­ty, often involv­ing sig­nif­i­cant com­pu­ta­tion­al challenges.

Teaching a Machine How to Imagine

We can train com­put­ers to learn to rec­og­nize objects by giv­ing them mil­lions of exam­ples with the cor­rect answers. A human baby, on the oth­er hand, learns to rec­og­nize many con­cepts and objects all by them­self sim­ply by inter­act­ing with a few exam­ples in the real world.

Using Cryptography to Redefine Legal Contracts and Public Records

Can we have agree­ments or the mech­a­nisms for enforc­ing agree­ments between gov­ern­ments with­out hav­ing to appeal to the ambi­gu­i­ty of inter­na­tion­al law?

Language as a Signature of the Flexible Human Mind

To under­stand human nature, I focus on human lan­guage and what it can reveal about how we think. Unlike oth­er ani­mals, humans can com­mu­ni­cate an infi­nite num­ber of thoughts through lan­guage. And one rea­son that lan­guage is pow­er­ful is because we can use each of our words flex­i­bly, with sev­er­al dif­fer­ent meanings.

Applying Algorithms to Minimize Risk

The United States plants more than 170 mil­lion acres of corn and soy­beans a year, more than any coun­try in the world. And the pri­ma­ry mech­a­nism in the US that we use to sub­si­dize agri­cul­ture is actu­al­ly called the Federal Crop Insurance Program. So, the crop insur­ance pro­gram in the US is also the largest such pro­gram glob­al­ly, with over $100 bil­lion in lia­bil­i­ties annu­al­ly. So it’s a very big program.

Mapping the Intricacies of Evolving Food Systems

In many coun­tries, the very abil­i­ty to eat a food like avo­ca­do is a direct ben­e­fit of inter­na­tion­al trade. We are eat­ing on an inter­con­nect­ed plan­et. Food trade now shapes land use world­wide and is reshap­ing the food sup­plies of many nations.

Holistic Heat Management

Machines gen­er­ate waste heat when they do work for us. And this year, sev­en bil­lion of us will use twenty-five tril­lion kilo­watt hours of elec­tric­i­ty. An awful lot of that will end up as waste heat. So, we treat waste heat as a prob­lem. We see it as a chal­lenge to design how we can man­age it. We don’t think of it as a resource. If we thought of it as a resource, that would be results we are just throw­ing away.

Automation and Algorithms in the Digital Age

I want to think more broad­ly about the future of cyber state, and think about accu­mu­la­tions of pow­er both cen­tral­ized and dis­trib­uted that might require trans­paren­cy in bound­aries we wouldn’t be used to.

Self-healing Concrete for Low-carbon Infrastructure

Our bridges, motor­ways, tun­nels, and dams, and all the build­ings that make up our infra­struc­ture are vital to our soci­ety and eco­nom­ic growth yet we take them for grant­ed. The shock­ing truth is that our infra­struc­ture is crum­bling beneath our feet. And this is cost­ing us dear­ly, both in terms of mon­ey and carbon. 

Molecular Mechanisms of Reward and Aversion

Why do we do the things that we do? Why do we some­times choose to be lov­ing par­ents and oth­er times engage in irra­tional self-destructive behav­iors? What dri­ves us to some­times be altru­is­tic and oth­er times make deci­sions that real­ly threat­en our very sur­vival? Well, the answer lies in our brains. Our brains evolved to ensure that we repeat behav­iors that will lead to our survival. 

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