Agenda 2030 Graduate School blog

Lund University Agenda 2030 Graduate School is a global, cutting-edge research school and collaboration platform for issues related to societal challenges, sustainability and the 2030 Agenda. The 17 PhD students from all faculties at Lund University enrolled with the Agenda 2030 Graduate School relate their specific research topics to the Sustainable Development Goals. In this blog the PhD students of the Graduate School discuss topical research and societal issues related to the 2030 Agenda.

Is AI sustainable?

Imaage of red heart among numers of zeros and ones. Photo.
Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash.

Posted on 10 May 2021 by Alexander Tagesson, Jesica Murcia López, Juan Ocampo and Maria Takman.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Agenda 2030 Graduate School or Lund University. The present document is being issued without formal editing.

This post is part of a blog post series on AI and sustainability.

None of us writing this post has been working specifically with Artificial Intelligence (AI). We brought more questions to the table than concrete answers, but isn’t that one of the motivations for collaborations? With a common awareness of the relevance of AI in the world, and with a sincere interest in its use for a more sustainable future, we decided to begin unfolding the world of AI. Curious about the creative tensions between AI and Sustainable Development, we initiated a collaboration with AI Lund[1] and other actors across Lund University.  After some meetings and discussions we found ourselves dealing with the following main questions: Why do we need AI? What needs to be considered when using AI to solve global challenges? And, how do we use AI in a sustainable way? We thought these questions were broad and relevant enough to open an interdisciplinary and meaningful discussion.

A working document on AI

There are several definitions of what AI is, however, the broadness of its applications and the fast pace of its development makes it difficult to have a “static” definition of AI[2].  In this line of thought, Heintz[3] identifies two main characteristics of AI applications: (i) these are systems that do things that would require some cognitive functionality if done by people and (ii) they continually improve over time.

Artificial Intelligence is a relevant topic in academia, industry, and our daily lives. In general, AI solutions permit the automation and delegation of tasks such as sorting your email[4], suggesting your next favourite song[5] or restaurant[6], or have a dialogue with your friend Alexa[7]. Great. But at the 2030 Agenda Graduate School we were not satisfied with this answer. It is expected that AI will bring incalculable future benefits, both societal and personal[8], however it also poses certain responsibilities in how AI is developed[9] and for what is being used[10]. We want to contribute to this discussion.

In Sweden, Lund University is a leader in terms of AI research, education and development[11],[12]. We at the Graduate School want to contribute to this endeavour by reflecting on the relevance of AI in attending the societal problems such as the ones identified by the 2030 Agenda on sustainable development. AI is not an easy topic, but we decided to give it a go and start by exploring what is happening in some of our fields of interest. The series will be divided into different themes. First, and most importantly we need to talk about ethics and transparency as a common basis for a general discussion on AI. The posts in this series will include topics such as cognitive science, environment, land use, water management, and financial inclusion.

This is an opportunity to learn, challenge, and be critical about things that matter. If you are interested in participating with a post or getting more information about the events related to this collaboration follow our Social Media and get in touch!


[2] For another definition go to Vinnova 2018 – AI in Business and Society – Summary –

[3] Frederik Heinz Commentary on AI in the EU, on Larsson, S., Ingram Bogusz, C., & Andersson Schwarz, J. (Eds.) (Accepted/In press). Human-Centred AI in the EU: Trustworthiness as a strategic priority in the European Member States. European Liberal Forum asbl.



[6] Orlikowski, W.J. and Scott, S.V. (2019), “Performing Apparatus: Infrastructures of Valuation in Hospitality”, Kornberger, M., Bowker, G.C., Elyachar, J., Mennicken, A., Miller, P., Nucho, J.R. and Pollock, N. (Ed.) Thinking Infrastructures (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 62), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 169-179.


[8] Vinuesa, R., Azizpour, H., Leite, I. et al. The role of artificial intelligence in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Nat Commun 11, 233 (2020).


[10] Valerio De Stefano (2018); “Negotiating the algorithm”: Automation, artificial intelligence and labour protection” -ILO—ed_emp/—emp_policy/documents/publication/wcms_634157.pdf

[11] Vinnova 2018 – AI in Business and Society – Summary –

[12]For a good visual analysis see:

May 10, 2021

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