AI Talk: Climate change, resume screener and smart parking

Aug. 13, 2021 / By V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD

Climate change and AI

This week we saw the release of a new report from the UN on climate change. This tome of more than 1,300 pages has an executive summary for policy makers (39 pages) and a technical summary (150 pages). Every news outlet is blaring the troubling news on what is happening to the Earth’s climate. The very first conclusion from this august body states this: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”

With the floods, fires and other disasters all over the world, we hardly need a reminder that the climate is changing. To offset this depressing news, I decided to research how AI is being applied to counter climate change. I found this recent Forbes article by Rob Toews, which provides an excellent summary.

So, what are the ways AI is being applied to address climate change? Here are some broad categories discussed in the Forbes article.

  • Climate intelligence. Predictive analytics that will help companies estimate the risk of exposure to climate events.
  • Climate insurance. Helping insurers assess climate risk and price it in meaningful ways.
  • Carbon offsets. Monitoring and pricing such offsets. For instance, how to use a patch of forest land to offset the carbon put out by a specific company.
  • Carbon accounting. Figuring out the precise amount of carbon produced by a specific company as a step towards understanding how to mitigate it.
  • Learning how to efficiently heat and cool buildings.
  • Precision agriculture. There are a lot of AI applications focused on reducing waste and increasing yield.
  • Applications that focus on how to efficiently generate electricity – one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions.
  • Predicting and preventing fires.

As companies and governments race to reduce carbon footprints, it is good to remember that human ingenuity can still be used avert the man-made climate catastrophe.

Resume screener

The last time I looked for a job was way back in 1990. I started my own company in 1995 and through a series of acquisitions and mergers I am now an employee at 3M. So, I was really surprised to learn that there is a whole range of companies now using AI to screen candidates. This MIT Technology Review article provides timely advice for all those seeking jobs, specifically on how to deal with the AI that screens resumes. They also have a series of four podcasts that walk through the algorithm driven recruitment landscape.

One piece of advice from the cofounder of Ziprecruiter, “… write like a caveman in the shortest, crispest words you can.” Why? The algorithm screening the resume is not looking at how good your font is or how pretty your layout is, it is simply looking for skills that the employer is looking for. What if your resume ends up looking like a cheesy marketing document? Get through the first application hurdle (AI algorithm screen) and then present a polished resume at the next level human review.

Apparently, you can also test how your resume will actually fare against these algorithms using AI of course. A company called Jobscan will take your resume and job description and rate how well you rank. Vmock is another such company. Vmock provides its software to universities to help students learn how such screeners work.

Some AI programs also conduct initial voice interviews. The MIT Tech podcast talks about how fake audio of a person fared in such an interview. The podcast also highlights the fact that this is an emerging discipline and leaves a lot to be desired. Certainly, a lot has changed in the past three decades in terms of job hunting and recruitment, and AI will continue to play an important role as its capabilities improve. In the interim, if you are a job seeker, pay attention to how to do it in this age of AI.

Smart parking

The motor city is investing in a real garage to test automated parking. The state of Michigan in partnership with Ford, Bosch and Enterprise, are building a test environment that will be available this fall for a self-driving car to test its parking skills.

Enterprise wants to see how quickly an electric car can be turned around after being recharged—available for rent to the next customer in the shortest time possible. Ford has demonstrated that its cars can drive into a garage and back into an available space. Testing parallel parking on city streets is another area of focus. Decades ago, I remember flunking the parallel parking part of my driving test and I had to retake it! Automated valet parking is definitely in our future and I can’t wait for it to arrive.

I am always looking for feedback and if you would like me to cover a story, please let me know! Leave me a comment below or ask a question on my blogger profile page.

V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD, is Director of Research for 3M M*Modal and is an AI Evangelist with four decades of experience in AI and Computer Science research.