Artificial Intelligence Opportunities for State and Local Departments Of Transportation


Report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: “Artificial intelligence (AI) has revolutionized various areas in departments of transportation (DOTs), such as traffic management and optimization. Through predictive analytics and real-time data processing, AI systems show promise in alleviating congestion, reducing travel times, and enhancing overall safety by alerting drivers to potential hazards. AI-driven simulations are also used for testing and improving transportation systems, saving time and resources that would otherwise be needed for physical tests…(More)”.

The Social Value of Hurricane Forecasts


Paper by Renato Molina & Ivan Rudik: “What is the impact and value of hurricane forecasts? We study this question using newly-collected forecast data for major US hurricanes since 2005. We find higher wind speed forecasts increase pre-landfall protective spending, but erroneous under-forecasts increase post-landfall damage and rebuilding expenditures. Our main contribution is a new theoretically-grounded approach for estimating the marginal value of forecast improvements. We find that the average annual improvement reduced total per-hurricane costs, inclusive of unobserved protective spending, by $700,000 per county. Improvements since 2007 reduced costs by 19%, averaging $5 billion per hurricane. This exceeds the annual budget for all federal weather forecasting…(More)”.

Brazil hires OpenAI to cut costs of court battles


Article by Marcela Ayres and Bernardo Caram: “Brazil’s government is hiring OpenAI to expedite the screening and analysis of thousands of lawsuits using artificial intelligence (AI), trying to avoid costly court losses that have weighed on the federal budget.

The AI service will flag to government the need to act on lawsuits before final decisions, mapping trends and potential action areas for the solicitor general’s office (AGU).

AGU told Reuters that Microsoft would provide the artificial intelligence services from ChatGPT creator OpenAI through its Azure cloud-computing platform. It did not say how much Brazil will pay for the services.

Court-ordered debt payments have consumed a growing share of Brazil’s federal budget. The government estimated it would spend 70.7 billion reais ($13.2 billion) next year on judicial decisions where it can no longer appeal. The figure does not include small-value claims, which historically amount to around 30 billion reais annually.

The combined amount of over 100 billion reais represents a sharp increase from 37.3 billion reais in 2015. It is equivalent to about 1% of gross domestic product, or 15% more than the government expects to spend on unemployment insurance and wage bonuses to low-income workers next year.

AGU did not provide a reason for Brazil’s rising court costs…(More)”.

Using ChatGPT to Facilitate Truly Informed Medical Consent


Paper by Fatima N. Mirza: “Informed consent is integral to the practice of medicine. Most informed consent documents are written at a reading level that surpasses the reading comprehension level of the average American. Large language models, a type of artificial intelligence (AI) with the ability to summarize and revise content, present a novel opportunity to make the language used in consent forms more accessible to the average American and thus, improve the quality of informed consent. In this study, we present the experience of the largest health care system in the state of Rhode Island in implementing AI to improve the readability of informed consent documents, highlighting one tangible application for emerging AI in the clinical setting…(More)”.

Blueprints for Learning


Report by the Data Foundation: “The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (Evidence Act) required the creation of learning agendas for the largest federal agencies. These agendas outline how agencies will identify and answer priority questions through data and evidence-building activities. The Data Foundation undertook an analysis of the agendas to understand how they were developed and plans for implementation as part of the 5-Year milestone of the Evidence Act.

The analysis reveals both progress and areas for improvement in the development and use of learning agendas. All but one large agency produced a publicly-available learning agenda, demonstrating a significant initial effort. However, several challenges were identified:

  • Limited detail on execution and use: Many learning agendas lacked specifics on how the identified priority questions would be addressed or how the evidence generated would be used.
  • Variation in quality: Agencies diverged in the comprehensiveness and clarity of their agendas, with some providing more detailed plans than others.
  • Resource constraints: The analysis suggests that a lack of dedicated resources may be hindering some agencies’ capacity to fully implement their learning agendas…(More)”.

Why the future of democracy could depend on your group chats


Article by Nathan Schneider: “I became newly worried about the state of democracy when, a few years ago, my mother was elected president of her neighborhood garden club.

Her election wasn’t my worry – far from it. At the time, I was trying to resolve a conflict on a large email group I had created. Someone, inevitably, was being a jerk on the internet. I had the power to remove them, but did I have the right? I realized that the garden club had in its bylaws something I had never seen in nearly all the online communities I had been part of: basic procedures to hold people with power accountable to everyone else.

The internet has yet to catch up to my mother’s garden club.

When Alexis de Tocqueville toured the United States in the early 1830s, he made an observation that social scientists have seen over and over since: Democracy at the state and national levels depends on everyday organizations like that garden club. He called them “schools” for practicing the “general theory of association.” As members of small democracies, people were learning to be citizens of a democratic country.

How many people experience those kinds of schools today?

People interact online more than offline nowadays. Rather than practicing democracy, people most likely find themselves getting suspended from a Facebook group they rely on with no reason given or option to appeal. Or a group of friends join a chat together, but only one of them has the ability to change its settings. Or people see posts from Elon Musk inserted into their mentions on X, which he owns. All of these situations are examples of what I call “implicit feudalism.”…(More)”.

close.city


About: “Proximity governs how we live, work, and socialize. Close is an interactive travel time map for people who want to be near the amenities that matter most to them. Close builds on two core principles:

  1. Different people will prioritize being near different amenities
  2. A neighborhood is only as accessible as its most distant important amenity

When you select multiple amenities in Close, the map shows the travel time to the furthest of those amenities. You can set your preferred travel mode to get to each amenity. Walking + Public Transit, Biking or Combined. Close is currently in public beta, with more features and destination types coming over the next few months. The reliability of destinations will continually improve as new data sources and user feedback are incorporated. Close is built and maintained by Henry Spatial Analysis. You can stay up-to-date on the latest improvements to Close by subscribing to the newsletter. How to use Close – Close includes travel time information for cities across the United States. To view a different location, select the search icon on the top left of the screen and enter a city or county name. To access map details, including a link to this About page, click the menu icon in the top left corner of the map…(More)”

Unmasking and Quantifying Power Structures: How Network Analysis Enhances Peace and State-Building Efforts


Blog by Issa Luna Pla: “Critiques of peace and state-building efforts have pointed out the inadequate grasp of the origins of conflict, political unrest, and the intricate dynamics of criminal and illicit networks (Holt and Bouch, 2009Cockayne and Lupel, 2011). This limited understanding has failed to sufficiently weaken their economic and political influence or effectively curb their activities and objectives. A recent study highlights that although punitive approaches may have temporarily diminished the power of these networks, the absence of robust analytical tools has made it difficult to assess the enduring impact of these strategies.

1. Application of Network Analytics in State-Building

The importance of analytics in international peace and state-building operations is becoming increasingly recognized (O’Brien, 2010Gnanguenon, 2021Rød et al., 2023). Analytics, particularly network analysis, plays a crucial role in dissecting and dismantling complex power structures that often undermine peace initiatives and governance reforms. This analytical approach is crucial for revealing and disrupting the entrenched networks that sustain ongoing conflicts or obstruct peace processes. From the experiences in Guatemala, three significant lessons have been learned regarding the need for analytics for regional and thematic priorities in such operations (Waxenecker, 2019). These insights are vital for understanding how to tailor analytical strategies to address specific challenges in conflict-affected areas.

  1. The effectiveness of the International Commission CICIG in dismantling criminal networks was constrained by its lack of advanced analytical tools. This limitation prevented a deeper exploration of the conflicts’ roots and hindered the assessment of the long-term impacts of its strategies. While the CICIG had a systematic approach to understanding criminal networks from a contextual and legal perspective, its action plans lacked comprehensive statistic analytics methodologies, leading to missed opportunities in targeting key strategic players within these networks. High-level arrests were based on available evidence and charges that prosecutors could substantiate, rather than a strategic analysis of actors’ roles and influences within the networks’ dynamics.
  2. Furthermore, the extent of network dismantlement and the lasting effects of imprisonment and financial control of the illicit groups’ assets remain unclear, highlighting the need for predictive analytics to anticipate conflicts and sustainability. Such tools could enable operations to forecast potential disruptions or stability, allowing for data-driven proactive measures to prevent violence or bolster peace.
  3. Lastly, insights derived from network analysis suggest that efforts should focus on enhancing diplomatic negotiations, promoting economic development and social capital, and balancing punitive measures with strategic interventions. By understanding the dynamics and modeling group behavior in conflict zones, negotiations can be better informed by a deep and holistic comprehension of the underlying power structures and motivations. This approach could also help in forecasting recidivism, assessing risks of network reorganization, and evaluating the potential for increased armament, workforce, or empowerment, thereby facilitating more effective and sustainable peacebuilding initiatives.

2. Advancing Legal and Institutional Reforms

Utilizing data sciences in conflicted environments offers unique insights into the behavior of illicit networks and their interactions within the public and private sectors (Morselli et al., 2007Leuprecht and Hall, 2014Campedelli et al., 2019). This systematic approach, grounded in the analysis of years of illicit activities in Guatemala, highlights the necessity of rethinking traditional legal and institutional frameworks…(More)”.

In the Land of the Unreal


Book by Lisa Messeri: “In the mid-2010s, a passionate community of Los Angeles-based storytellers, media artists, and tech innovators formed around virtual reality (VR), believing that it could remedy society’s ills. Lisa Messeri offers an ethnographic exploration of this community, which conceptualized VR as an “empathy machine” that could provide glimpses into diverse social realities. She outlines how, in the aftermath of #MeToo, the backlash against Silicon Valley, and the turmoil of the Trump administration, it was imagined that VR—if led by women and other marginalized voices—could bring about a better world. Messeri delves into the fantasies that allowed this vision to flourish, exposing the paradox of attempting to use a singular VR experience to mend a fractured reality full of multiple, conflicting social truths. She theorizes this dynamic as unreal, noting how dreams of empathy collide with reality’s irreducibility to a “common” good. With In the Land of the Unreal, Messeri navigates the intersection of place, technology, and social change to show that technology alone cannot upend systemic forces attached to gender and race…(More)”.

Quantum Policy


A Primer by Jane Bambauer: “Quantum technologies have received billions in private and public
investments and have caused at least some ambient angst about how they will disrupt an already fast-moving economy and uncertain social order. Some consulting firms are already offering “quantum readiness” services, even though the potential applications for quantum computing, networking, and sensing technologies are still somewhat speculative, in part because the impact of these technologies may be mysterious and profound. Law and policy experts have begun to offer advice about how the development of quantum technologies should be regulated through ethical norms or laws. This report builds on the available work by providing a brief summary of the applications that seem potentially viable
to researchers and companies and cataloging the effects—both positive and negative—that these applications may have on industry, consumers, and society at large.

As the report will show, quantum technologies (like many information technologies that have come before) will produce benefits and risks and will inevitably require developers and regulators to make trade-offs between several legitimate but conflicting goals. Some of these policy decisions can be made in advance, but some will have to be reactive in nature, as unexpected risks and benefits will emerge…(More)”.