This paper offers a first look into the cross-section of two emerging megatrends: how AI can accelerate the transition to a circular economy. It finds that AI can enhance and enable circular economy innovation across industries.
A circular economy, in which growth is gradually decoupled from the consumption of finite resources, offers a response. Its principles are to design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems.
The challenges and negative impacts of the current economic model are massive, cumulative, and set to grow in line with the global economy, which could almost double over the next 20 years.i It is clear that we need new approaches and solutions to put us on an accelerated transition to a better model. New technologies, including faster and more agile learning processes with iterative cycles of designing, prototyping, and gathering feedback, are needed for the complex task of redesigning key aspects of our economy.
Artificial intelligence (AI) can play an important role in enabling this systemic shift. AI is a subset of the technologies enabling the emergent ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ era,ii and deals with models and systems which perform functions generally associated with human intelligence, such as reasoning and learning. AI can complement people’s skills and expand their capabilities. It allows humans to learn faster from feedback, deal more effectively with complexity, and make better sense of abundant data. A growing number of initiatives are exploring how AI can create new opportunities to address some of the world’s most important challenges.
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