Despite a hefty ecological footprint of its own, digital technology has the potential to contribute to a more sustainable future. A recent study highlights the fact that AI is particularly suited to make existing processes more sustainable. By analyzing tons of data from operational plants and factories, AI systems are able to control processes much more precisely than human operators can and, in doing so, save energy and other resources and reduce waste.
While optimizing existing processes is a good thing, in most cases such incremental improvements are not sufficient to make processes truly sustainable. To do so, more radical innovation, i.e. transformation, is needed and that requires genuine creativity; to think outside the box of known equations and parameters and to come up with ‘fantastic’ solutions. Going forward, the question is thus whether data, AI and other digital tools can contribute such a creative process? In that respect, the recent surge of ‘creative’ AI’s is promising, although human input will nevertheless remain essential.