Personal displacement figured prominently in the OODA Almanac 2023 theme of “Jagged Transitions” – which was meant to invoke the challenges inherent in the adoption of disruptive technologies while still entrenched in low-entropy old systems and in the face of systemic global community threats and “the risks of personal displacement.” While tragic- and exacurbating the polycrisis and global uncertainty – the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East is also now a large scale “edge case” of war as a force function (or accelerant) in the exponential growth of technology platforms and solutions in additive manufacturing, digital twins, AI, and robotics as applied to humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
Following are the technology, research, people, and organizations to watch that make up the community of practice (that, up to now, has been primarily in the academic and humanitarian research space) that has now been catapulted to center stage in a global response to a deeply troubling geopolitical crisis.
Topics and resources briefly summarized below include:
- AI + HADR: Artificial Intelligence for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) Workshop
- Makers of 3D-Printed Medical Equipment Struggle to Save Lives In Gaza Under Siege
- Generative AI: A Game-changer for Humanitarian Assistance
- Harnessing the Potential of Artificial Intelligence for Humanitarian Action: Opportunities and Risks
- Digital Twin Smart Cities for Disaster Risk Management
- Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health: Disaster Health Digital Twin
- Humanitarian AI Today
- Digital twins, Simulation and AI for Disaster Management? Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Recovery.
AI + HADR: Artificial Intelligence for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) Workshop
Ritwik Gupta is a Technical Director of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and an Advisor on AI and AI Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice. According to a recent LinkedIn post, Gupta has been “organizing the AI for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response workshop for five years now…my goal when launching the workshop was to galvanize the tiny AI + HADR community at the time and build partnerships across researchers and practitioners that would turn into real, production systems. Together with the core team of Eric Heim and Robin Murphy, we have successfully built our community over the years. It has been refreshing to see academics all around the world dive into the field and contribute to the state of the art. Teams in companies such as Microsoft‘s AI for Good and Google‘s SKAI have solidified into engines that support many NGOs in disaster response and have shared their work at the workshop many times. Our latest iteration of the workshop from NeurIPS 2023 was covered in an article in Science | Science Robotics thanks to excellent penmanship from Thomas Manzini: https://lnkd.in/g2KqaYWY.”
The Science Robotics article requires subcription access, but a short abstract was available:
Harnessing AI and robotics in humanitarian assistance and disaster response: AI and robotics can facilitate humanitarian assistance and disaster response, but partnerships with practitioners are crucial. Interestingly, the Annual AI+HADR Workshop is sponsored by the DIU and the European Space Agency.
“The offices of the Glia Project, which makes and distributes open-source, 3D-printed tourniquets in Gaza, were damaged this week.”
As reported by Motherboard: “A group of hackers and surgeons making open-source, 3D-printed medical equipment in Gaza are facing obstacles to saving lives as Israel continues a bombing campaign that has killed many civilians in retaliation for attacks by Hamas that killed over 1,000 Israelis including children over the weekend.
Tarek Loubani, a Palestinian-Canadian emergency room doctor, helped pioneer the use of 3D-printed medical devices like stethoscopes and tourniquets in Gaza. He runs the Glia Project, which uses technology to save lives in a region where medical supplies are scarce because of Israel’s blockade. Loubani, who spoke to Motherboard from Canada, said the project is facing extraordinary difficulties, including damage to one of its offices from a bomb that has disrupted its ability to supply medical equipment on Wednesday.
People injured in the kinds of bombing campaigns that Gaza frequently experiences need immediate medical care to survive. One of the fastest ways to save lives is to use a tourniquet. In the months before the bombing, Glia was able to distribute hundreds of the 3D-printed tourniquets. Loubani said it distributed 400 tourniquets on July 20, another 500 in mid-September, and 275 this week.”
“How can organizations like the UN World Food Programme and its many partners use AI to help meet their mandates?”
Jay Mahanand is the Chief Information Officer at the United Nations World Food Programme. In a recent LinkedIn article, Mahanand shared his perspective on the potential impacts of generative AI on humanitarian assistance:
“The ChatGPT user base has grown faster than any app in history. Discussions about its impact on the work world are growing at a similar pace. What are the opportunities and implications of disruptive artificial intelligence (AI) for the humanitarian sector? How can organizations like the UN World Food Programme and its many partners use AI to help meet their mandates? I believe the opportunities and implications are equally significant. Top of the list is that we will need strong guardrails to protect the data privacy of those we serve.
Machine learning and AI offer many opportunities to stretch resources, maximize efficiency and create long-lasting impact. Here are four ways WFP could use AI to strengthen its mission:
- Stronger emergency preparedness and response. We use drones to capture aerial imagery of communities at risk of flooding during rainy season and then analyze that imagery with artificial intelligence…With AI, the entire process takes hours – without it, it would take weeks. In emergencies, where every minute can mean the difference between life and death, speed translates to many more lives saved.
- Improving access to information in emergencies. The WFP-led Emergency Telecommunications Cluster provides disaster-prone communities with chatbots….Solutions like ChatGPT, for example, can bolster these chatbots even further, provide users with more specific and quicker information, breaking down complex search queries much faster to improve access to information.
- Creating a more efficient supply chain. AI software has the potential to near-instantly identify potential blockages in our supply chain based on the latest information and propose alternate routes to deliver goods.
- Supporting fundraising and advocacy. ChatGPT can enhance advocacy work, like drafting social media posts, media releases, and articles with surprising speed and precision. For non-profits that often struggle with resource shortages, these solutions can efficiently boost advocacy efforts to help secure much-needed funds.
For the complete article by Mahanand, including a discussion of risk and “Paving a path forward for AI in humanitarian work”, go to this link.
Harnessing the Potential of Artificial Intelligence for Humanitarian Action: Opportunities and Risks
“…the existing risks, including those relating to algorithmic bias and data privacy concerns, must be addressed as a priority if AI is to be put at the service of humanitarian action…”
Data-driven artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are progressively transforming the humanitarian field, but these technologies bring about significant risks for the protection of vulnerable individuals and populations in situations of conflict and crisis. This article investigates the opportunities and risks of using AI in humanitarian action. It examines whether and under what circumstances AI can be safely deployed to support the work of humanitarian actors in the field. The article argues that AI has the potential to support humanitarian actors as they implement a paradigm shift from reactive to anticipatory approaches to humanitarian action. However, it recommends that the existing risks, including those relating to algorithmic bias and data privacy concerns, must be addressed as a priority if AI is to be put at the service of humanitarian action and not to be deployed at the expense of humanitarianism. In doing so, the article contributes to the current debates on whether it is possible to harness the potential of AI for responsible use in humanitarian action.
About the Author: Ana Beduschi is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Exeter and a Senior Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights
“Digital Twin (DT) is one of the most promising technologies for multi-stage management which offers significant potential to advance disaster resilience.”
Natural hazard-induced disasters have caused catastrophic damage and loss to buildings, infrastructure, and the affected communities as a whole during the recent decades and their impact is expected to further escalate in the future. Thus, there is a huge demand for disaster risk management using digitalisation as a key enabler for effective and efficient disaster risk management systems. It is widely accepted that digital and intelligence technologies can help solve key aspects of disaster risk management such as disaster prevention and mitigation, and rescue and recovery.
Digital Twin (DT) is one of the most promising technologies for multi-stage management which offers significant potential to advance disaster resilience. Smart Cities (SCs) use pervasive information and communications technology to monitor activities in the city. With increasingly large applications of DTs combined with big data generated from sensors in a SC, it is now possible to create Digital Twin Smart Cities (DTSCs). Despite the increasing prevalence of DTSC technologies and their profound impact on disaster risk management, a systematic and longitudinal view of the evolution to the current status of DTSC for disaster risk management does not exist. This paper contributes to the knowledge by improving the understanding of the current status of DTSC technologies and their impact on disaster risk management, and articulating the challenges in implementing DTSC, which inspires the professional community to advance these technologies to address them in future research.
About the Authors: Mahendrini Ariyachandra is a PhD, Lecturer, Researcher, and Digital Roads of the Future (DRF) Programme Manager at the University of Cambridge; Gayan Wedawatta is a Senior Lecturer in Construction and QS at Aston University and the Programme Director for Construction Project Management and Quantity Surveying.
Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health: Disaster Health Digital Twin
“…we apply Systems Thinking via System Dynamics Analysis (SDA) to create the analytic framework of Disaster Healthcare.”
As a decision tool for disaster healthcare, the Digital Twin will enable cost/resourcing analysis, disaster response planning, workforce projections and training, and system readiness (preparedness) assessment. It will also force the implementation of objective performance metrics. Recognizing the evolution of Disaster Healthcare as a complex socio-technological system, we apply Systems Thinking via System Dynamics Analysis (SDA) to create the analytic framework of Disaster Healthcare. Our proof-of-concept project focuses on Disaster Nursing as a collaboration between JHU Divisions – the Applied Physics Lab (JHU-APL), the School of Nursing (JHU-SON), and the Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHU-BSPH).
The Disaster Health Digital Twin is a project of the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health is a unique and collaborative Johns Hopkins academic program conducted jointly by the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the School of Medicine, and the School of Nursing. It is hosted by the Department of International Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and draws upon a variety of disciplines, including epidemiology, demography, emergency and disaster medicine, health systems management, nutrition/food security, environmental engineering, mental health, political science, and human rights. The Center collaborates with a variety of organizations including national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multilateral and UN organizations, and Governmental agencies, as well as other research institutions on field-based research and humanitarian projects.
Other items of note: Brent O. Phillips is a project manager, veteran humanitarian relief worker and expert in humanitarian open data sharing frameworks currently heading the Humanitarian AI meetup groups in Cambridge, San Francisco, New York City, London, Toronto, Montreal, Paris, Berlin, Geneva, Zurich, Bangalore and Tokyo and producing a podcast series, humanitarian AI Today. Humanitarian AI is a hybrid meetup community and open source initiative launched to cross-connect AI developers and humanitarian actors and carry out backend research and development work advancing humanitarian uses of artificial intelligence technology; For the perspective of a private sector practictioner, a recent post from Sacha Leprêtre, a Technical Product Innovation Leader for AI at CAE is interresting as well: What can we do now with Digital twins, Simulation and AI for Disaster Management? Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Recovery.
OODA Almanac 2023 – Jagged Transitions: This is the 3rd installment of our OODA Almanac series which are intended to be a quirky forecasting of themes that the OODA Network think will be emergent each year. You can review our 2022 Almanac and 2021 Almanac which have both held up well. The theme for last year was exponential disruption, which was carried through into our annual OODAcon event. This year’s theme is “jagged transitions” which is meant to invoke the challenges inherent in the adoption of disruptive technologies while still entrenched in low-entropy old systems and in the face of systemic global community threats and the risks of personal displacement.
Decision Intelligence for Optimal Choices: The simultaneous occurrence of numerous disruptions complicates situational awareness and can inhibit effective decision-making. Every enterprise should evaluate their methods of data collection, assessment, and decision-making processes. For more insights: Decision Intelligence.
Networked Extremism: The digital era enables extremists worldwide to collaborate, share strategies, and self-radicalize. Meanwhile, advanced technologies empower criminals, making corruption and crime interwoven challenges for global societies. See: Converging Insurgency, Crime and Corruption
Food Security and Inflation: Food security is emerging as a major geopolitical concern, with droughts and geopolitical tensions exacerbating the issue. Inflation, directly linked to food security, is spurring political unrest in several countries. See: Food Security
Demographic Time Bomb: Industrialized nations face demographic challenges, with a growing elderly population outnumbering the working-age demographic. Countries like Japan and China are at the forefront, feeling the economic and social ramifications of an aging society. See: Global Risks and Geopolitical Sensemaking
Rise of the Metaverse: The Metaverse, an immersive digital universe, is expected to reshape internet interactions, education, social networking, and entertainment. See Future of the Metaverse.