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This proposal was forked from What if Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Now et al can save the planet! in the contest Shifting Behavior for a Changing Climate 2016


What if Siri et al can tell us that simple changes in our personal lifestyle can make the big difference in reducing our carbon footprint?



There are 7.4 billion people right now (1) and there are also 2.08 billion people with Smart phones worldwide (2) and these smart phones have easy access to Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Now. These virtual or digital assistants have tons of potentials of helping people from finding direction to opening emails  and seeking out information which will be the basis for daily decisions or actions of people. Remember Cookie monster telling Siri, “set timer for 14 minutes” and happily fiddling and sneaking  a peek at  the oven waiting for his cookies to bake. Though there are still certain tweaks or adjustments of these kinds of apps for them to perform better in the future and learn to read more (study made about human learning suggested that computer learns the same way as people by reading. (3)

The more people read the more they learn. Computers behaved exactly the same but with one clear advantage i.e., computers can be inputted with limitless data and information.

Our team’s goal is to team work with programmers from Google, Microsoft and Apple etc.  and help them create or develop their respective  apps -- Google Now, Cortana and Siri to answer personal questions relating to carbon footprint and   about climate change in general.

 But why Siri? Because Siri is often funny, non threatening and studies made of human behavior like the Fun Theory(4), initiated by VW initiative showed that more people (66% of them) took the stairs instead of the usual  escalator when they painted the stairs or steps leading to a Stockholm, Sweden subway like the musical piano  keys. This set out to prove that people’s behavior can be changed for the better by making mundane activities fun.     


Category of the action

Changing public perceptions on climate change

What actions do you propose?


“The fate of our planet will be determined in the next few decades, through our technological, lifestyle, and population choices” Bill McKibben,  A Special Moment in History


It’s so difficult to communicate climate change because climate change to us humans is so abstract and gradual and makes us tend to under think the threats of climate change. (5) Google Trends two years ago noted searches of the term climate change has been on a declined since 2004 with majority still so skeptical and even disavowed the science behind it. (6)    

Siri et al have limitless potentials they can learn (read) like people according to an article and we can tap those potentials. (See endnote 3)

As of now Siri behaves like any searches boxes where you type your query and out comes the link. When you ask Siri what climate change she will direct you to a wiki link, although you can ask her to read the article.   

What if Siri et al can help us determine our personal carbon footprint?

My wife and I did these using, The Nature Conservancy calculators. After asking us to fill up series of questions about home energy, driving and flying and food and diet we had a 9.3 tons of greenhouse gas emissions contribution per year compare that to the US average of 27 tons per person per year.  The 9.3 tons is a bit higher than world average per person of carbon emissions but since we are in the US our carbon foot print is way, way below the US average. These owing to our decisions to use one car and to frequently utilize public transportation instead and other simple life adjustments.

This is how Siri et al can help us (more engaging, more fun and more "personal"  versus impersonal  filling up forms to calculate personal carbon foot print or searching for links like the traditional Google searches wherein people  are not so predispose to do  as survey about climate change searches have shown), by asking a series of questions and when people are using their smartphone anyway Siri et al can provide us with our personal carbon footprint in no time.  

The proposal will only work out if MIT Colab, our team and these tech giants can sit down and discuss the infinite possibilities of adding more to Siri’s, Cortana’s and Google Now’s capability to dole out carbon footprint personal profiles, tips, techniques and guides in a fun and engaging way and more likely people will have a change of heart and avoid “under thinking” the seriousness of the climate change threats in our generation and future generations to come. At least in our time, our legacy to the future will be, we tried fixing it too for you. 

Collaboration  with tech giants lately by Apple (known for green office undertakings) vis-à-vis  IBM in providing big data analysis for business and mobile technology have been undertaken in the past (see so our proposal for collaboration will not be new! Thus, why not on climate change and shifting behavior using engaging and hilarious Siri et al.

Moreover, society’s values and mindset should need adjusting too. So aside from the importance of assets and liabilities, income and earnings etc., why not a personal carbon footprint valuation. If my carbon footprint is way below the averages then I must be doing great in taking care of the environment. Our society – schools, workplace and social media network and with this kind of valuation e.g. 9.5 tons per year versus the US average   of 27 tons per person per year will put you in good standing or in high esteem in society (reputation).  

Over and above, the substantial decrease (sacrifices, choosing alternative options) in your carbon foot print emissions,  you can also  continually donate cash and support  to green organizations  like Nature Conservancy and support all their efforts at making the world a better place to live and breathe. That way even if you have carbon emissions of 9.5 tons personally per year and since you are making donations to green organizations then it goes without saying that you are further helping decrease the greenhouse gas emissions as a whole. Moreover, as we  adopt simple changes too like not brushing your teeth with  running water, bringing your bags when going to the supermarket and other  simple and practical things or activities sooner or later  and collectively all these actions will make as the song would go ...."a better place for us (the world)...."




Who will take these actions?

People in the technical field of programming, computers and apps development  as well as those in  communication will be able to take actions in improving Siri and the like in climate change communication and education. Tech adopters (those with smartphones and devices) will be the end users and will take the actions to  personally  improve their carbon emission profiles or scores, since we envision lesser personal carbon emissions as being rewarded in the near future, thanks to MIT Climate Colab other universities joining the project and of course the tech giants who made possible for Siri et al to communicate climate change in a fun and engaging way.


Where will these actions be taken?

 Every person worldwide with access to Smart Phones and computers, that is potentially 2 billion+ people worldwide talking to Siri et al about their personal carbon footprint, household carbon emissions  and even other tips, vignettes of climate change challenges from around the world and how these challenges were overcome.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

What are other key benefits?

 Other key  benefits for using Siri and other smartphones and computer applications will have more people with greater access to it. There will be no boundaries, no language or culture barriers in having a sensible talk with Siri about climate change and what  can I simply change in our personal lifestyle or habits to reduce our carbon foot print. Access without boundaries so to speak.

Moreover, using these digital assistants or AI will have the other benefits of confirming other studies made by Prof Hanses (8) ;

People change their behavior if you focus on one behavior to change at a time. People use their smartphones as a matter of habit for easy access to information and without appearing as naïve and foolish one can ask questions from Siri and you get sensible and actionable answers to reducing carbon footprint.






What are the proposal’s costs?

 The costs will be borne by these tech giants helped by universities worldwide in tweaking improving Siri “reasoning power”. The tech giants will soon benefit from improving Siri et al since present assessment of experts pointed to just Siri and Google now as making the grade (9) since in the end they too will benefit from sale of their computers and phones through improved digital assistants apps which help people do better work and enjoy life. The Nature Conservancy and other green organizations may pitch in too vis-a-vis  providing some of the resources, questions, data and surveys made yearly pertaining to the  the average worldwide and country to country like the US average per person greenhouse gas emissions. 


Time line

We expect In the short term that Siri and other apps can help us immediately  considering the urgency of the climate change scenario  wherein people are sans taking any actions yet to reduce their carbon emission in the personal level.

The interest  worldwide which is declining and the number of skeptics including believers who have no inkling yet what simple changes in their lifestyle can do is still unimaginable.


In the long term apps like  Siri at home (master controller and capable of sleeping and waking on the job)  can do  shutting off your thermostat or adjusting and notifying you when to open your email and computer  i.e. only if you receive an email your expecting; turn of the  the led lights too of your appliances; even shut off gas valve when sleeping Siri detects gas leakage.

Even when you enter your room you can whistle or talk to Siri and she  will open the lights, the curtain etc. 

The lists of what Siri et al can is only limited with the limits we put to our thinking and creativity.  In sum, there are impossible things for us humans to do but with Siri probably the statement "impossible" is not true at all.  Siri can make us laugh, why not make Siri help us believe in climate change. Shifting behavior as the fun theory said can change people for good! To segue a bit there was a project to make people throw their garbage properly. Fun theorists placed a detector and  whenever trash is thrown inside the garbage bin, a crashing or thud  sound as though the garbage bin interior is so deep, put hilarity and smile  to people around.  This made other  people seeing what is happening with those who came before them  and try to duplicate what others experienced before them --  throwing their garbage and expecting the sound.  (Please see  Endnote 4) Personally, a talking garbage can that sounded like the character in Sesame street, Grover  may  put a smile and solve garbage disposal on the streets with Grover's  saying simple "thanks buddy" or "merci beaucoup". 

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1. Information sourced from

2.  Data sourced from

 3.UniversitaetTübingen. (2014, January 20). Forget about forgetting: Elderly know more, use it better. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 20, 2016

4. Fun Theory culled from

5. From why we worry about the things we shouldn’t - The psychology of risk by     Jeffrey Kluger, page 67.  Time Magazine, December 2006).

6. Culled from

May 21, 2014, Interest in climate change has waned, Google Trends reveals



7. Imaginary conversation with Siri culled from this source:


8. Studies from Harvard Business Review, MANAGING PEOPLE

Ten Ways to Get People to Change by Morten T. Hansen, September 21, 2012


9. Sourced from which is the best digital assistant: Siri, Cortana, Alexa or Google Now? by Heather Kelly @heatherkelly, July 28, 2015: