discussion / AI for Conservation  / 11 February 2019

Responsible AI for Conservation?

AI is booming in conservation, with almost daily news articles on how it will solve problem X with algorithm Y. Indeed, there's huge potential here. But, as the old adage goes..with great power comes great responsibility!

We (David Jacoby, @robin_freeman and I) just published a comment piece ("Responsible AI for Conservation"), arguing for serious consideration of the possible unintended consequences of AI use in conservation. It might be a good starting point for a discussion here, as there are lots of folks actively engaged in really exciting projects at the intersection of AI and conservation. 

Have a read here (free to read) if you're interested. Either way, it would be great if we could:

a) share and discuss examples you've come across of possible (or actual) unintended consequences of AI, specifically in conservation (there are lots of examples from other fields, such as this one and this one, that have been well-publicised)

b) discuss ways to guide algorithm development in such a way as to reduce harm for wildlife and people



Hi Ollie,

Congratulations on your beautiful article. One thing that we feel is that too many jargons are hampering (disruptive technologies for conservation/ecological research) our efforts. For instance, even we are addressing the same issue, but from a different perspective. Please check out https://www.wildlabs.net/community/thread/649

Does it not make sense if we synergise a bit more?



Hello Ollie,

SODA is a recently launched suite. It is in the development phase. We have with us call libraries with multiple (40+) calls for 10- 12 species of birds. A research scholar is on the job for classifying at the species level.

Our interest is equally on separating the different sonic components (as stated in https://www.wildlabs.net/community/thread/666). It is different from the link shared in my previous reply. This is where I see the confluence of objectives.

As a TEAM, I believe, we can address the individual objectives faster.




Hi Ollie, 

Great article, thank you!  I mostly work with responsible AI in other contexts, at Doteveryone.org.uk and the Trust & Technology Initiative at the University of Cambridge, so don't have much to offer here, although I am very interested in the topic.  I appreciate your point that many of the consumer data issues highlighted in the 'popular' responsible AI discourse aren't relevant to conservation (some of us have been gathering 'responsible tech' / 'ethical tech' resources in a shared doc, and there's essentially nothing there for conservation specifically - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SN6hYeKe3eRK6x9D0Sr7GpCA4nirpyo3u68xG1A6NDs/edit ). However there might be some links with humanitarian data practices, which are touched on by the Responsible Data folks at https://responsibledata.io and https://www.fabriders.net/data-literacy-consortium/ or in this recent article https://asecondmouse.wordpress.com/2019/02/20/instability-forecasting-models-seven-ethical-considerations/