David Kinnear lists ways robots and technology can assist in environmentally friendly efforts. A changing climate presents many challenges and affects many aspects of our lives. As David Kinnear shows, the use of artificial intelligence can greatly improve our ability to better control the planet.
Since the Industrial Revolution, automation has reshaped the
manufacturing industry in places all over the world, doing
repetitive jobs that free up humans for more creative endeavors.
Factories are investing in automated technology. The use of
drones has reshaped warfare, reducing the number of lives lost in
Now, robots are being employed in a novel way: to help save the
natural world in a way that humans could not have previously
imagined. The invention of robotic technology means that humans
can finally make roadways into the deepest oceans and thickest
forests—corners of the world previously inaccessible to mere
SAVING THE WORLD
AS WE KNOW IT
One startup uses robots to identify and inject poison into a species
of starfish in Australia. These starfish feed on and severely damage
the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the natural
world—and one which some scientists are arguing may already be
In other areas of the vast ocean, unmanned sailing drones are used
to detect pollution and track changes in water temperature and
acidity. Similar to the Australian starfish, the lionfish in the Indian
and Pacific Oceans are invasive, feasting on fish that are beneficial
for the environment, including those that keep algae at bay.
Lionfish are also hard to kill since they are too quick for human
divers to target with spears. Enter a group of scientists, including
the creator of the Roomba. They are developing a remote-
operated robot that administers a lethal shock to the fish to keep
them under control.
COMING TO A NATURAL
RESERVE NEAR YOU
Just why are robots so important? Because they are not just doing
the jobs humans don’t want to do. They are doing the jobs humans
Vast changes in industrialization, as well as the climate, mean
ecologists have a harder time tracking and understanding such
As documented in the BBC series “Planet Earth II,” the rapid
buildup of urban spaces in Barbados, for example, fatally distracts
Hawksbill turtle hatchlings. Instead of responding to the glow of
the moon to crawl toward the ocean upon hatching, they react to
the glow of city lights and crawl toward the urban sprawl,
eventually being crushed under the wheels of cars. These turtles
are nearly extinct.
In the world of agriculture, Japanese scientists are working on a
drone that can help bees pollinate flowers. Bees are needed to
pollinate the majority of crops consumed by humans. Their
services are so crucial to the ecosystem that they are flown across
the country in trucks in order to pollinate almond trees in
But today, bees are under pressure from outside elements such as
pesticides and climate change. Technology such as the Japanese
drone could help farmers in much need of the services of bees.
Robots are also helping us conserve our ecosystems. Unmanned
aerial vehicles, for example, can track and monitor protected areas
and endangered species. There are companies using drones to
identify wildfires and replant trees, both faster than any human
could before. Not to mention the satellites that can catch illegal
fishing or deforestation.
PLAYING GOD WITH
THE NATURAL ORDER?
To some, the question of ethics inevitably arises. The advent of
such exciting new technology means the future of ecology looks
bright. But now it can also be altered by human intervention.
Fortunately, it doesn’t look like our robots are interested in
turning us into human batteries yet, like in The Matrix. And they
don’t seek to alter the ecosystem, either. For now, our robots are
helping us prevent the decimation of systems, prevent the
extinction of species, and ensure that critically endangered species
do not die out.