There is no doubt about the increasing pervasiveness of technology-driven nature, and why humans are on a path which is not going to be able to have us innovate a replacement that fosters meaningful connections to our surroundings. It is difficult to think about technology and nature together, but advances such as artificial intelligence (AI), which cannot be farther removed from the natural world, are also helping with conservation efforts. From the open oceans to the deepest parts of the world’s densest forests, technology has the potential to revolutionise the way we recognise, measure, monitor, and assess the myriad services and resources nature provides to us.
While we are rightly excited about our scientific knowledge, we are increasingly conscious of the harms we are doing when our technological powers go beyond local use of forces and resources, and into mass-scale control and redirection.
In our time, there is growing recognition that global peace is threatened, not just by an arms race, regional conflicts, and ongoing injustices between individuals and nations, but by an absence of proper regard for nature, by plundering of natural resources, and a gradual reduction of quality of life. Faced with widespread environmental destruction, people everywhere are coming to realise that we cannot continue using the good things of the Earth the way we did in the past. E.g., as WWF in Australia brings on new partners and pushes for novel uses of technology, we think that an informed, engaged public is crucial for this work, and we are continually striving to educate people about the challenges facing our planet, and what we are doing to address them.
We have a critical window of opportunity between now and mid-2023 to establish commitments and actions that will reverse the trends of natural decline before 2030, and help to secure human and environmental health and wellbeing. It is time to focus on solutions that we know exist or are potentially developing, and that is where technology, together with behaviour change, can help us reset the health of our nature and our planet. The pace of technology change is diverse, and it presents challenges to certain groups of people and societies which we will have to recognise and address in order to avoid marginalization and political conflicts.
In that sense, the physical and psychological benefits that we are seeing from technological nature this generation are likely to be diminished in future generations. While people are worried that computers are replacing the jobs of humans, a better-case scenario is that technology augments the capabilities of humans, and does functions humans dislike. No technology created by humans will ever completely replace nature’s technologies, which have been refined for hundreds of millions of years, to provide key services to keep life on earth.
The ultimate goal of innovation must be much broader, helping create the most intelligent future where humans enjoy the best possible quality of life. The Partnership Model is poor at anticipating possible problems arising from innovation, and it frequently fails, as it does not appreciate nature for itself, apart from its functional utility for humans. In contrast, technology may cause conflicts when the goals and values of the inventor are out of sync with those of the community – for example, in genetically modified (GM) crops.