27 July 2022
Researchers Explore Robotics and Autonomous Systems’ Role in Reaching SDGs
Photo by Lukas on Unsplash
story highlights

Globally, 60% of companies are projected to adopt robotics and autonomous systems by 2025.

Their growing deployment is expected to transform decision-making processes and “the way humans interact with one another, governments, and the environment”.

Opportunities and risks associated with robotics and autonomous systems need to be considered systematically to leverage the technologies’ potential to support the delivery of the SDGs and prevent any unwanted detrimental impacts.

Robotics and autonomous systems are likely to transform how the SDGs are achieved. This is the main finding from a horizon scan by a group of researchers, published in Nature Communications. The paper argues that robotics and autonomous systems need to be “considered explicitly when developing future iterations of the Sustainable Development Goals to avoid reversing progress or exacerbating inequalities.”

The paper acknowledges that “robotics and autonomous systems are reshaping the world, changing healthcare, food production and biodiversity management.” It notes that globally, 60% of companies are projected to adopt robotics and autonomous systems by 2025 and that their growing deployment is expected to transform decision-making processes and “the way humans interact with one another, governments, and the environment.”

The paper highlights that by replacing and supporting human activities, fostering innovation, enhancing remote access, and improving monitoring, robotics and autonomous systems present opportunities to accelerate SDG progress. For example, through mechanisms that support resource efficiency in smart cities and improve modeling of climate change impacts, artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to “enable delivery” of 134 SDG targets.

At the same time, the paper argues, such technologies can carry the risk of reinforcing inequalities, exacerbating environmental crises, diverting resources from “tried-and-tested solutions,” and reducing freedom and privacy through bad governance.

The paper emphasizes that opportunities and risks associated with robotics and autonomous systems need to be considered systematically to leverage the technologies’ potential to support the delivery of the SDGs and prevent any unwanted detrimental impacts. It recommends, inter alia, early collaboration and continued dialogue among stakeholders while designing and implementing robotics and autonomous systems to help realize associated benefits and minimize unintended consequences and trade-offs.

The horizon scan evaluated robotics and autonomous systems’ impact on all 17 SDGs, and involved 102 experts from around the world. The publication notes that horizon scans are not conducted to fill knowledge gaps but instead “explore emerging trends and developments with the intention of fostering innovation and facilitating proactive responses” by a range of stakeholders, including researchers, managers, and policymakers. [Publication: Meeting Sustainable Development Goals Via Robotics and Autonomous Systems]

related posts

Advancing National SDG Implementation: Assessing VNR Reports to Learn from SDG Experiences

Advancing National SDG Implementation: Assessing V...

2030 Vision Partnership Will Advance Use of Digital Technology in SDGs

2030 Vision Partnership Will Advance Use of Digita...

Secretary-General’s SDG Progress Report Proposes Actions to “Rescue” SDGs

Secretary-General’s SDG Progress Report Proposes...

GOLD V Report Assesses Progress Towards “Localization” of Global Agendas

GOLD V Report Assesses Progress Towards “Localiz...