July 26, 2023
President, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation
Technology holds the key to building resilient societies as we witness the development of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered early warning systems and supply chain management. However, as we embrace these advancements, critical questions arise about the opportunities they present and the potential risks they entail.
During the U.S. Chamber Foundation's 12th Annual Building Resilience Conference, five panelists discussed the opportunities and risks of this emerging technology.
Artificial Intelligence Intersects with Disaster Prediction and Climate Change
Emerging technologies can improve outcomes and responses to critical challenges that communities are facing. In particular, AI can “fill in the gaps” where data is missing to help communities make more informed decisions about short-term and long-term disaster prediction and planning, according to Sean Griffin, CEO and Founder of Disaster Tech.
“When we don’t have data from a power company [on] overhead lines and distribution systems, we can use streets or other adjacent inferences to be able to make an educated guess,” he explained. “We can use AI to learn from the past, but also [to] use predictive data for the future … to make better investment decisions.”
Prachi Sukhatankar, Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton’s Climate and Infrastructure unit, shared the untapped potential of AI in collecting disaster and climate change data. Booz Allen is exploring opportunities to use technology to alert about fires using AI smoke sensor detection.
“Ultimately, what matters is how we are meaningfully applying those technologies and … figuring out those last several miles where we provide that intuitive experience to the stakeholders,” said Sukhatankar.
AI Can Support Financial Agency During Crises
During crises, it can be difficult and costly to transfer money around the world. David Fortino, Director of Strategic Response for Circle, explained the benefit of blockchain technology in providing financial agency.
“Circle’s in a unique position to utilize blockchain technology and move money across the world in times of need,” Fortino said. “We do that through a digital dollar, a stablecoin called USDC.”
Circle recently utilized digital wallets and partnerships with MoneyGram locations to aid Ukrainian refugees.
“This is a way of getting that aid to local countries around the world in a fast, transparent, stable environment,” Fortino added.
Technology Users Must Become Technological Architects
Frank Shultz, CEO & Founder of Infinite Blue, emphasized the importance of making the digital transformation more accessible to the broader public.
“There’s a lot of concepts in risk and in business continuity, and even AI … it becomes so ‘jargon-y’ that it really distances people from understanding what it is,” he explained.
The ultimate goal, according to Schulz, is empowering every employee within an organization to take action.
“Our mission is to put the right data in people’s hands at the right time, and that’s really complicated,” he added. “There’s a lot of data out there and in your organization that you need to thread together.”
To aid in this, Infinite Blue utilizes publicly-available data to show what can be mitigated early on, and incorporates real-time threat intelligence to help mobilize a timely response.
The AI-Powered Future Offers Both Opportunity and Risk
According to Sukhatankar, emerging technologies like AI will continue to exist and evolve.
“What we need to do is think through how we can infuse them better in our operations,” she emphasized.
Current discussions are focused on what information AI is fed and what happens when false information gets circulated.
“[We] have to be measured in how we implement and put checks in to make sure that we’re getting the right results,” Shultz said.
Another concern to consider is the overload of the electric grid systems with the increase of emerging technologies.
“We need to be cognizant of the future risks of what these systems may demand of us as a society,” said Fortino, “and we need to start planning for that.”