Artificial intelligence helps solve the most complex problems beneath our feet

May 9, 2021


by Hari Viswanathan

Few technological developments have captured the minds — and fear — of humanity like artificial intelligence. Whether it’s robots rising up to subdue their makers like in the Westworld series, or the malevolent computer Hal 9000 from the classic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, machines that can learn are depicted as threats to the world as we know it.

Obviously, these futures are the work of imaginative screenwriters. In fact, artificial intelligence, or AI, is at work in the field of geological science right now helping to preserve the world and save lives. That topic is the focus of a virtual seminar series throughout the summer called “Machine Learning in Solid Earth Geoscience,” a series that has been hosted in Santa Fe in pre-COVID-19 years.

We haven’t yet reached the point where machines can think for themselves. So when we speak of AI, it’s about the capacity for computer algorithms to take in massive amounts of data and uncertainty and then identify patterns, learn from those patterns, and make predictions thousands of times faster than a human can.

This is especially helpful in the realm of geological science, where we look for patterns deep below the Earth’s surface to understand Earth’s processes and resources. In geology, there are a range of unknowable possibilities, and separating one slice of information among the cacophony of natural noise is impossible for the human mind.

Read the rest of the story as it appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican.