California's going to try to solve the water crisis in the most sci-fi way possible: AI.

If you've ever thought to yourself, "Hm, I wonder how close we are to actually creating artificial intelligence," the answer is IBM's Watson.

The supercomputer/"Jeopardy" champion/Ridley Scott advisor is basically the closest we've come as a species to creating a machine that can think for itself. Well, the closest we've come so far.


Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images.

Watson works through a concept called "cognitive computing." It basically means that instead of following rigid computer structures like decision trees and "if this, then that" types of programmable behavior, Watson takes in more information and context and can actually think about the solution to a problem.

It also gets smarter over time, building on its previous knowledge as it learns how to solve problems faster and more efficiently.

Watson's cognitive abilities are pretty much endless, and so far, it's done some pretty cool stuff.

Watson partnered with the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City to create 65 recipes by learning about what ingredients go well together.

Watson analyzing ingredient pairings. Image via IBM Research/YouTube.

Watson has also read millions of medical studies to learn about health and wellness, and it can even guide you through an art museum while answering every question you have about the artists.

Recently, Watson got a new job in California tracking water use.

The environmental consulting firm OmniEarth hired Watson to essentially be the overseer of water in California, a state often plagued by droughts and most recently a massive water shortage.

Watson will look at satellite images by the truckload and try to learn as much as it can. The more it looks at California's many farms, golf courses, vineyards, backyards, and deserts, the more it starts to recognize patterns and trends. It actually learns where all of California's water is going just by observing and thinking.

Then it can figure out who might be using too much and where more might need to be distributed.

A dried up reservoir in San Jose, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

"Watson doesn’t know anything about water usage or Earth images," said Jerome Pesenti, vice president of IBM’s Watson platform, to The Huffington Post. "But if you give it some training images, the system can take those as examples and learn from them."

From there, Watson only gets smarter and better at its job.

It's just information now, but California can use it to enact real change.

Local governments can use Watson's data to make customized water budgets for their communities. Also, because many people might not be aware they're overusing water, Watson can help with targeted messaging to those people, informing them of their potential water abuse and providing solutions and ways to cut back. Watson can also spot places where water is scarce and help cities divert resources to those areas.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Solving environmental crises requires the greatest minds of today.

In this case, one of those minds is a manmade computer that kicks ass on "Jeopardy." Whoever, or whatever, solves the problems challenging our environment will need to learn, think, and adapt on a massive scale and act as fast as possible.

Watson is pretty much the perfect candidate.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.