Small Wars Journal

How Can AI Help in a Humanitarian Crisis?

How Can AI Help in a Humanitarian Crisis? By Dan McQuillan - The Independent

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is undergoing a period of massive expansion. This is not because computers have achieved human-like consciousness, but because of advances in machine learning, where computers learn from huge databases how to classify new data. At the cutting edge are the neural networks that have learned to recognise human faces or play Go.

Recognising patterns in data can also be used as a predictive tool. AI is being applied to echocardiograms to predict heart disease, to workplace data to predict if employees are going to leave, and to social media feeds to detect signs of incipient depression or suicidal tendencies. Any walk of life where there is abundant data – and that means pretty much every aspect of life – is being eyed up by government or business for the application of AI.

One activity that currently seems distant from AI is humanitarianism; the organisation of on-the-ground aid to fellow human beings in crisis due to war, famine or other disaster. But humanitarian organisations too will adopt AI. Why? Because it seems able to answer questions at the heart of humanitarianism – questions such as who we should save, and how to be effective at scale. AI also resonates strongly with existing modes of humanitarian thinking and doing, in particular the principles of neutrality and universality. Humanitarianism (it is believed) does not take sides, is unbiased in its application and offers aid irrespective of the particulars of a local situation…

Read on.