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Managing AI risks and reducing methane from cows

5 Dec 2019

Research projects at USC to tackle two major global threats – climate change and unchecked artificial intelligence – have been boosted by nearly $1million in Australian Research Council Discovery Project funding.

Professor Paul Salmon was awarded $460,522 over three years to lead the delivery of a framework for the management of safe artificial intelligence (AI) systems and Associate Professor Scott Cummins was awarded $425,766 to determine the key genes in seaweed that help reduce methane emissions by livestock.

Professor Salmon said that while AI offered far-reaching benefits, it also still posed a threat to society if not properly managed.

“It is widely acknowledged that a failure to implement appropriate controls for the next generation of artificial intelligence (AI) could have catastrophic consequences including, in the worst case, the extinction of the human race,” he said.

“Our research aims to forecast the risks associated with Artificial General Intelligence systems and identify the controls require to ensure that risks and existential threats are minimised.

“We plan to use that information to provide designers, organisations, regulators and governments with a framework to support the design, implementation and management of safe and efficient AGI systems.”

Dr Cummins is seeking genomic information in order to harness the full potential of seaweed as a natural additive to livestock feed to reduce the methane they emit by burping.

“Novel climate solutions are crucial, as agriculture is responsible for 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” Dr Cummins said.

“Our project aims to understand the molecular components that produce bioactive natural products in a seaweed that, when fed to cattle and sheep, cuts out methane emissions.

“We will apply genomic techniques to determine the key genes involved and the ecological factors that influence their expression across the seaweed lifecycle.”

USC Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Roland De Marco congratulated the researchers on gaining funding from a highly competitive national field.

“Their success is testament to the excellence of the researchers involved and signals that USC’s work in these fields is at the leading edge of international research,” Professor De Marco said.

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