Elon Musk is on a one-man mission to make sure we don’t miss the potential of A.I. to destroy humanity. (You can read his latest here).But whose job is it to highlight the ways in which A.I. can help solve mankind’s most pressing problems? The folks at the McKinsey Global Institute have taken on that challenge, with a new report out later today: “Applying A.I. for Social Good.”
The authors have assembled a “library” of 160 cases where applying A.I. can have large scale social impact. These aren’t pie-in-the-sky imaginings of the future, when A.I. might cure cancer or reverse global warming. Rather they are real life examples where the technology is already being applied today. The study spotlights six “illustrative use cases:”
- AI-enhanced computer vision, like Microsoft’s Seeing A.I., is helping vision-impaired people identify objects and read printed text.
- Pilot technology is being used to diagnose melanomas using mobile phone cameras.
- Smart data tools, like M-Shwari banking in Kenya, are using new data sets to judge the creditworthiness of people currently outside the banking system.
- Researchers at USC have built an A.I.-powered drone that can be used to detect poachers in wildlife preserves.
- The University of Michigan has developed a model called ActiveRemediation that can predict within 98% accuracy whether a water service line is lead, and can be used to reduce unnecessary replacement excavations in places like Flint.
- Following Hurricane Harvey in 2017, a collaboration between Planet Labs, a provider of satellite imagery, and CrowdAI provided an immediate view of the greater Houston area and was able to detect road outages due to flooding and quantify infrastructure damage.
You can find the full report at here. It’s a welcome antidote to Musk’s musings.
And speaking of A.I., I’m in Beijing today and heading to Guangzhou, where Fortune’s second annual Global Tech Forum gets underway tomorrow. The theme: “Innovation in the Age of A.I.” I’ll be reporting from there, and you’ll find full coverage on fortune.com.
President Trump is unhappy about GM’s job cuts, so to protect workers he has sent the company’s stock tumbling by threatening to withdraw all of its subsidies. Thing is, it’s not clear what federal subsidies GM actually gets—there’s a tax credit for electric cars, but that goes to the consumer, not the manufacturer. CNN
Tesla in China
So how is Tesla doing in China, where it’s just decided to cut pricing even though it means absorbing more of the import tariffs that are hitting it? In October, says the China Passenger Car Association, Tesla’s sales were down 70% year-on-year. But Freeman Shen, CEO of WM Motor, threw doubt on the figure, saying the Association’s assertions were “not always accurate.” Tesla itself went with “wildly inaccurate.” Fortune
GSK and Unilever
GlaxoSmithKline is reportedly in exclusive talks to sell its $4 billion nutrition business to Unilever, which has beaten out Nestlé for the privilege over a months-long auction process. The unit notably makes Horlicks, a malted drink that’s huge in places like India and South Africa. Financial Times
Lawmakers from various countries, who held an extraordinary joint hearing at the British Parliament yesterday regarding Facebook’s privacy problem, were not happy that Mark Zuckerberg refused (yet again) to visit London to face the music. So much so that they left an empty chair for him at the hearing. Meanwhile, Facebook EMEA policy chief Richard Allan did testify—just before former FTC chief technologist Ashkan Soltani made a surprise appearance to say Allan had lied to his inquisitors. Sky News
Around the Water Cooler
The number of people who are in the U.S. without authorization is actually at a 12-year low, despite all the heated rhetoric around the subject that’s going on right now. The stats come from the Pew Research Center, which noted that the drop of 1.5 million people from a 2007 peak to 2016 is mostly due to fewer Mexicans being in the U.S. without authorization. Over the same period, legal immigration was up 22%. Fortune
British Prime Minister Theresa May will allow members of Parliament to vote on changes to the country’s Brexit deal with the EU, as well as on the overall text. This is a major backdown from May ahead of the December 11 vote, which most expect to reject the draft agreement. The change of heart could in theory clear the way for another referendum on the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU. Bloomberg
Google In China
Five dozen Google employees have written an open letter pleading with the company to drop Project Dragonfly, which could see it re-enter the Chinese search market. They wrote: “Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be. The Chinese government certainly isn’t alone in its readiness to stifle freedom of expression, and to use surveillance to repress dissent. Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.” Medium
The Lion Air Boeing 737 Max that crashed last month, killing 189, should not have been flying, according to a report by Indonesian investigators. The problems went beyond the anti-stall mechanism that Boeing installed in its new planes without telling pilots—the plane in question, which was quite new, had experienced other issues on previous flights but was apparently kept in service when it should not have been. BBC