Sustainability starts in the design process, and AI can help

MIT Technology Review 

Artificial intelligence helps build physical infrastructure like modular housing, skyscrapers, and factory floors. "…many problems that we wrestle with in all forms of engineering and design are very, very complex problems…those problems are beginning to reach the limits of human capacity," says Mike Haley, the vice president of research at Autodesk. But there's hope with AI capabilities, Haley continues "This is a place where AI and humans come together very nicely because AI can actually take certain very complex problems in the world and recast them." And where "AI and humans come together" is at the start of the process with generative design, which incorporates AI into the design process to explore solutions and ideas that a human alone might not have even considered. "You really want to be able to look at the entire lifecycle of producing something and ask yourself, 'How can I produce this by using the least amount of energy throughout?'" This kind of thinking will reduce the impact of, not just construction, but any sort of product creation on the planet. The symbiotic human-computer relationship behind generative design is necessary to solve those "very complex problems"--including sustainability. "We are not going to have a sustainable society until we learn to build products--from mobile phones to buildings to large pieces of infrastructure--that survive the long-term," Haley notes. The key, he says, is to start in the earliest stages of the design process. "Decisions that affect sustainability happen in the conceptual phase, when you're imagining what you're going to create." He continues, "If you can begin to put features into software, into decision-making systems, early on, they can guide designers toward more sustainable solutions by affecting them at this early stage."

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