Al Gore predicts machine learning and other tech advances will usher in a ‘sustainability revolution’


Al Gore speaks at Bloomberg’s Sustainable Business Summit in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

One of the world’s most visible environmentalists is optimistic about the future of the planet because of technology. Former US Vice President Al Gore believes advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, connected devices, and other technology will make it possible for society to reach sustainability goals at record speed.

“The world is in the early stages of a sustainability revolution that has the magnitude and scale of the industrial revolution at the speed of the digital revolution,” Gore said at the Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit in Seattle Thursday.

Gore used Google as an example. The tech giant acquired machine learning startup DeepMind and used its technology to study energy use at data centers. The technology allowed Google to reduce its energy use by 40 percent.

Al Gore interviewed by Bloomberg Sustainable Finance Editor Emily Chasan in Seattle on Thursday. (GeekWire photo / Taylor Soper)

“There are thousands of use cases where this same kind of approach is eliminating waste and inefficiency and many operations are disintermediating unnecessary factors,” Gore said. “They’re reaching levels of hyper-efficiency that many would have thought impossible in the past and this is happening in almost every sector.”

After he left the White House, Gore became a climate change crusader, authoring “Earth in the Balance,” “An Inconvenient Truth,” “The Assault on Reason,” and other environmental books in addition to his advocacy work. He now serves as chairman of Generation Investment Management and The Climate Reality Project.

Gore and the tech industry also go way back. He backed several bills dedicated to technology research during his time in Congress. Today, he sits on the board of Apple, a company he applauded for its sustainability work during the Seattle event Thursday.

Gore says he’s inspired by the companies he sees “participating in business activities that help to move the world toward a healthier, cleaner, more just and equitable world and a business that is giving good returns to its shareholders and other stakeholders without stealing from their future returns.”

He’s confident that “we are going to win” the fight to reduce carbon emissions but whether that victory will come in time remains to be seen.

“The only question is whether we’ll do it in time to avoid the damage that would really be horrendous for us and, particularly, for the next generations,” he said. “For those that doubt that we have the political will to accomplish this, just remember that political will is, itself, a renewable resource.”

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