AI in 2020, why fire can help biodiversity, and how COVID-19 is pushing women out of the workforce

How artificial intelligence is helping boost company profits, why controlled fires can help biodiversity and the impact of the pandemic on working women. Our round-up of provoking thoughts, penetrating insights and digital curiosities.

AI benefits and investment revealed

A new report by consultancy McKinsey found that 22% of companies surveyed attribute more than 5% of profits to their use of artificial intelligence (AI). The State of AI in 2020 found that companies seeing significant value from AI were continuing to invest in it during the pandemic, in particular those in the automotive, healthcare, pharmaceutical and medical products sectors. However, it says that achieving impact at scale is difficult for many businesses not only due to the technical challenges but also due to the organisational changes required.

Read more: How has the pandemic affected the outlook for robotics?

How controlled fires can help the natural world

While out-of-control wildfires are often a result of climate change, and leave a devastating effect, natural fires can actually help promote biodiversity, Science reports. Strategically allowing areas of grassland to burn under the right conditions can allow grazing animals the space and vegetation they need to thrive, while collecting data will allow the effectiveness of this approach to be measured.

Read more: Industrialised agriculture: How the reliance on soybean harms biodiversity

How COVID-19 is pushing women out of work

Women are being squeezed out of the workforce by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). It said that women who are often paid less and have less job security than men are sacrificing their careers in order to care for family members – exacerbated by fact that one in 10 school pupils worldwide are still learning at home due to lockdowns. The ILO believes that the pandemic risks undoing much of the progress achieved in reducing gender inequalities at work and that unpaid care work should be put at the centre of social and economic policies.

Read more: The pandemic’s gender bias needs urgent fixing

A breakthrough in anti-ageing treatment

While life expectancy is increasing, the health of our bodies may not always be able to keep up – but scientists believe they have now found a way to keep us younger at a cellular level. According to the journal Aging, researchers used a form of oxygen therapy to reverse two key indicators of biological ageing, though said how long the effects would last would need to be studied further.

Read more: 10 ways the longevity economy is changing the way we live now

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