By Alan Murray and David Meyer
November 28, 2018

Good morning.

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

More below.

Alan Murray


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