Technology gets a bad rap. It’s increasingly so big and powerful, and people fear it will take their jobs, expose their private information, or ultimately take over the world. Such perspectives miss the otherwise bright future that is already underway in companies all over the world that are levering today’s technology.
This week, I had the opportunity to radically increase my understanding of how advanced technologies can and are being used in incredibly inspiring ways. First, I read Marga Hoek’s incredibly inspiring book, Tech for Good, and then had her on my Working on Purpose podcast to talk about it.
Marga’s book depicts 85 case studies of companies already embracing artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, extended realities, advanced materials, blockchain, autonomous vehicles and drones, and space technologies. She shares what these companies are doing with technological solutions to address the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are designed as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They are:
- No poverty
- Zero hunger
- Good health and well-being
- Quality education
- Gender equality
- Clean water and sanitation
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Climate action
- Life below water
- Life on land
- Peace, justice and strong institutions
- Partnerships for the goals
Just a few examples from Marga’s book I found particularly inspiring include:
- Consider world hunger and population growth as a problem to solve. With an AI-based system for data collection, farmers are automating the labor-dependent process to transform food production in much more efficient ways. Scientists and businesses are now applying AI and data management to the agricultural production process of farming. Marga writes, “From weather pattern predictions to pest control monitoring, satellite data enables farmers to tap into and integrate massive sources of control monitoring, satellite data enables farmers to tap into and integrate massive sources of information into their daily practice. AI brings the data together and synthesizes analytics to provide recommendations to farmers about how they can increase crop production on their land.
- This one addressing “life below water” just blows my mind! Consider that a coral reef organically grows over the course of several hundred years. You’ve likely heard about the extreme damage we humans and climate change have caused to these ecosystems. There are organizations specializing in the ecological design of marine structures, and they have collaborated to create the X-Reef, which mimics the ecosystem of the Mediterranean. Now, as exemplified by X-Reef, the coral reef growth process can be reduced from a few hundred years to a handful of hours, mere “printing time.” 3D printing can also be used to prevent loss and protect existing, vulnerable reefs.
- Addressing climate action and sustainable cities, the example Marga shares about Mexico City is truly awesome and to me showcases just what we can do with Advanced Materials to address the sustainability goals. She writes that the UN declared Mexico City in 1992 the most polluted city in the world. “In the southern corner stands a beautiful 100-meter tall, 2,500-meter wide serene white façade of a hospital building called the Torre de Especialidades that was inspired by fractals in nature. A delight for the eye, this structure works to benefit our planet’s sustainability efforts by cleaning up the pollution of thousands of vehicles passing by every day.” Marga details how these advanced materials work to clean up the mess in Mexico City made by humans – it’s wicked smart and off-the-charts inspiring!