AI for Good: Applications in Sustainability, Humanitarian Action, and Health

Book by Juan M. Lavista Ferres and William B. Weeks: “…an insightful and fascinating discussion of how one of the world’s most recognizable software companies is tacking intractable social problems with the power of artificial intelligence (AI). In the book, you’ll learn about how climate change, illness and disease, and challenges to fundamental human rights are all being fought using replicable methods and reusable AI code.

The authors also provide:

  • Easy-to-follow, non-technical explanations of what AI is and how it works
  • Examinations of how healthcare is being improved, climate change is being addressed, and humanitarian aid is being facilitated around the world with AI
  • Discussions of the future of AI in the realm of social benefit organizations and efforts

An essential guide to impactful social change with artificial intelligence, AI for Good is a must-read resource for technical and non-technical professionals interested in AI’s social potential, as well as policymakers, regulators, NGO professionals, and, and non-profit volunteers…(More)”.

AI for Good: Applications in Sustainability, Humanitarian Action, and Health

Book by Juan M. Lavista Ferres, and William B. Weeks: “…delivers an insightful and fascinating discussion of how one of the world’s most recognizable software companies is tackling intractable social problems with the power of artificial intelligence (AI). In the book, you’ll see real in-the-field examples of researchers using AI with replicable methods and reusable AI code to inspire your own uses.

The authors also provide:

  • Easy-to-follow, non-technical explanations of what AI is and how it works
  • Examples of the use of AI for scientists working on mitigating climate change, showing how AI can better analyze data without human bias, remedy pattern recognition deficits, and make use of satellite and other data on a scale never seen before so policy makers can make informed decisions
  • Real applications of AI in humanitarian action, whether in speeding disaster relief with more accurate data for first responders or in helping address populations that have experienced adversity with examples of how analytics is being used to promote inclusivity
  • A deep focus on AI in healthcare where it is improving provider productivity and patient experience, reducing per-capita healthcare costs, and increasing care access, equity, and outcomes
  • Discussions of the future of AI in the realm of social benefit organizations and efforts…(More)”

Gaza and the Future of Information Warfare

Article by P. W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking: “The Israel-Hamas war began in the early hours of Saturday, October 7, when Hamas militants and their affiliates stole over the Gazan-Israeli border by tunnel, truck, and hang glider, killed 1,200 people, and abducted over 200 more. Within minutes, graphic imagery and bombastic propaganda began to flood social media platforms. Each shocking video or post from the ground drew new pairs of eyes, sparked horrified reactions around the world, and created demand for more. A second front in the war had been opened online, transforming physical battles covering a few square miles into a globe-spanning information conflict.

In the days that followed, Israel launched its own bloody retaliation against Hamas; its bombardment of cities in the Gaza Strip killed more than 10,000 Palestinians in the first month. With a ground invasion in late October, Israeli forces began to take control of Gazan territory. The virtual battle lines, meanwhile, only became more firmly entrenched. Digital partisans clashed across Facebook, Instagram, X, TikTok, YouTube, Telegram, and other social media platforms, each side battling to be the only one heard and believed, unshakably committed to the righteousness of its own cause.

The physical and digital battlefields are now merged. In modern war, smartphones and cameras transmit accounts of nearly every military action across the global information space. The debates they spur, in turn, affect the real world. They shape public opinion, provide vast amounts of intelligence to actors around the world, and even influence diplomatic and military operational decisions at both the strategic and tactical levels. In our 2018 book, we dubbed this phenomenon “LikeWar,” defined as a political and military competition for command of attention. If cyberwar is the hacking of online networks, LikeWar is the hacking of the people on them, using their likes and shares to make a preferred narrative go viral…(More)”.

GovTech in Fragile and Conflict Situations Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities

Report by the World Bank: “This report takes stock of the development of GovTech solutions in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations (FCS), be they characterized by low institutional capacity and/or by active conflict and provides insights on challenges and opportunities for implementing GovTech reforms in such contexts. It is aimed at practitioners and policy makers working in FCS but will also be useful for practitioners working in Fragility, Conflict, and Violence (FCV) contexts, at-risk countries, or low-income countries as some similar challenges and opportunities can be present…(More)”.

The Time is Now: Establishing a Mutual Commitment Framework (MCF) to Accelerate Data Collaboratives

Article by Stefaan Verhulst, Andrew Schroeder and William Hoffman: “The key to unlocking the value of data lies in responsibly lowering the barriers and shared risks of data access, re-use, and collaboration in the public interest. Data collaboratives, which foster responsible access and re-use of data among diverse stakeholders, provide a solution to these challenges.

Today, however, setting up data collaboratives takes too much time and is prone to multiple delays, hindering our ability to understand and respond swiftly and effectively to urgent global crises. The readiness of data collaboratives during crises faces key obstacles in terms of data use agreements, technical infrastructure, vetted and reproducible methodologies, and a clear understanding of the questions which may be answered more effectively with additional data.

Organizations aiming to create data collaboratives often face additional challenges, as they often lack established operational protocols and practices which can streamline implementation, reduce costs, and save time. New regulations are emerging that should help drive the adoption of standard protocols and processes. In particular, the EU Data Governance Act and the forthcoming Data Act aim to enable responsible data collaboration. Concepts like data spaces and rulebooks seek to build trust and strike a balance between regulation and technological innovation.

This working paper advances the case for creating a Mutual Commitment Framework (MCF) in advance of a crisis that can serve as a necessary and practical means to break through chronic choke points and shorten response times. By accelerating the establishment of operational (and legally cognizable) data collaboratives, duties of care can be defined and a stronger sense of trust, clarity, and purpose can be instilled among participating entities. This structured approach ensures that data sharing and processing are conducted within well-defined, pre-authorized boundaries, thereby lowering shared risks and promoting a conducive environment for collaboration…(More)”.

Unlocking the Potential: The Call for an International Decade of Data

Working Paper by Stefaan Verhulst : “The goal of this working paper is to reiterate the central importance of data – to Artificial Intelligence (AI) in particular, but more generally to the landscape of digital technology.

What follows serves as a clarion call to the global community to prioritize and advance data as the bedrock for social and economic development, especially for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It begins by recognizing the existence of significant remaining challenges related to data; encompassing issues of accessibility, distribution, divides, and asymmetries. In light of these challenges, and as we propel ourselves into an era increasingly dominated by AI and AI-related innovation, the paper argues that establishing a more robust foundation for the stewardship of data is critical; a foundation that, for instance, embodies inclusivity, self-determination, and responsibility.

Finally, the paper advocates for the creation of an International Decade of Data (IDD), an initiative aimed at solidifying this foundation globally and advancing our collective efforts towards data-driven progress.

Download ‘Unlocking the Potential: The Call for an International Decade of Data’ here

Catastrophic Incentives: Why Our Approaches to Disasters Keep Falling Short

Book by Jeff Schlegelmilch and Ellen Carlin: “Societies are vulnerable to any number of potential disasters: earthquakes, hurricanes, infectious diseases, terrorist attacks, and many others. Even though the dangers are often clear, there is a persistent pattern of inadequate preparation and a failure to learn from experience. Before disasters, institutions pay insufficient attention to risk; in the aftermath, even when the lack of preparation led to a flawed response, the focus shifts to patching holes instead of addressing the underlying problems.

Examining twenty years of disasters from 9/11 to COVID-19, Jeff Schlegelmilch and Ellen Carlin show how flawed incentive structures make the world more vulnerable when catastrophe strikes. They explore how governments, the private sector, nonprofits, and academia behave before, during, and after crises, arguing that standard operational and business models have produced dysfunction. Catastrophic Incentives reveals troubling patterns about what does and does not matter to the institutions that are responsible for dealing with disasters. The short-termism of electoral politics and corporate decision making, the funding structure of nonprofits, and the institutional dynamics shaping academic research have all contributed to a failure to build resilience.

Offering a comprehensive and incisive look at disaster governance, Catastrophic Incentives provides timely recommendations for reimagining systems and institutions so that they are better equipped to manage twenty-first-century threats…(More)”.

Generative AI is set to transform crisis management

Article by Ben Ellencweig, Mihir Mysore, Jon Spaner: “…Generative AI presents transformative potential, especially in disaster preparedness and response, and recovery. As billion-dollar disasters become more frequent – “billion-dollar disasters” typically costing the U.S. roughly $120 billion each – and “polycrises”, or multiple crises at once proliferate (e.g. hurricanes combined with cyber disruptions), the significant impact that Generative AI can have, especially with proper leadership focus, is a focal point of interest.

Generative AI’s speed is crucial in emergencies, as it enhances information access, decision-making capabilities, and early warning systems. Beyond organizational benefits for those who adopt Generative AI, its applications include real-time data analysis, scenario simulations, sentiment analysis, and simplifying complex information access. Generative AI’s versatility offers a wide variety of promising applications in disaster relief, and opens up facing real time analyses with tangible applications in the real world. 

Early warning systems and sentiment analysis: Generative AI excels in early warning systems and sentiment analysis, by scanning accurate real-time data and response clusters. By enabling connections between disparate systems, Generative AI holds the potential to provide more accurate early warnings. Integrated with traditional and social media, Generative AI can also offer precise sentiment analysis, empowering leaders to understand public sentiment, detect bad actors, identify misinformation, and tailor communications for accurate information dissemination.

Scenario simulations: Generative AI holds the potential to enhance catastrophe modeling for better crisis assessment and resource allocation. It creates simulations for emergency planners, improving modeling for various disasters (e.g., hurricanes, floods, wildfires) using historical data such as location, community impact, and financial consequence. Often, simulators perform work “so large that it exceeds human capacity (for example, finding flooded or unusable roads across a large area after a hurricane).” …(More)”

Google’s Expanded ‘Flood Hub’ Uses AI to Help Us Adapt to Extreme Weather

Article by Jeff Young: “Google announced Tuesday that a tool using artificial intelligence to better predict river floods will be expanded to the U.S. and Canada, covering more than 800 North American riverside communities that are home to more than 12 million people. Google calls it Flood Hub, and it’s the latest example of how AI is being used to help adapt to extreme weather events associated with climate change.

“We see tremendous opportunity for AI to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, and climate change is very much one of those,” Google’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Kate Brandt, told Newsweek in an interview.

At an event in Brussels on Tuesday, Google announced a suite of new and expanded sustainability initiatives and products. Many of them involve the use of AI, such as tools to help city planners find the best places to plant trees and modify rooftops to buffer against city heat, and a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to use AI to improve maps related to wildfires.

Google Flood Hub Model AI extreme weather
A diagram showing the development of models used in Google’s Flood Hub, now available for 800 riverside locations in the U.S. and Canada. Courtesy of Google Research…

Brandt said Flood Hub’s engineers use advanced AI, publicly available data sources and satellite imagery, combined with hydrologic models of river flows. The results allow flooding predictions with a longer lead time than was previously available in many instances…(More)”.

Disaster preparedness: Will a “norm nudge” sink or swim?

Article by Jantsje Mol: “In these times of unprecedented climate change, one critical question persists: how do we motivate homeowners to protect their homes and loved ones from the ever-looming threat of flooding? This question led to a captivating behavioral science study, born from a research visit to the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center in 2019 (currently the Wharton Climate Center). Co-founded and co-directed by the late Howard Kunreuther, the Center has been at the forefront of understanding and mitigating the impact of natural disasters. In this study, we explored the potential of social norms to boost flood preparedness among homeowners. While the results may not align with initial expectations, they shed light on the complexities of human behavior, the significance of meticulous testing, and the enduring legacy of a visionary scholar.

The Power of Social Norms

Before we delve into the results, let’s take a moment to understand what social norms are and why they matter. Social norms dictate what is considered acceptable or expected in a given community. A popular behavioral intervention based on social norms is a norm-nudge: reading information about what others do (say, energy saving behavior of neighbors or tax compliance rates of fellow citizens) may adjust one’s own behavior closer. Norm-nudges are cheap, easy to implement and less prone to political resistance than traditional interventions such as taxes, but they might be ineffective or even backfire. Norm-nudges have been applied to health, finance and the environment, but not yet to the context of natural disaster risk-reduction…(More)”.