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Artificial Intelligence, Refugees, Global Health Security: RAND Weekly Recap

December 20, 2019

This week we discuss the Pentagon's artificial intelligence strategy; how technology can help refugees and those who serve them; one RAND researcher's experience with a wildfire; threats to global health security; improving school and classroom climate; and what an “artificial intelligence peace plan” might look like.

Computer simulation of military aircraft and missiles, photo by Devrimb/Getty Images

Photo by Devrimb/Getty Images

The Pentagon's Artificial Intelligence Strategy

The U.S. Department of Defense has laid out an ambitious vision for artificial intelligence. But is this strategy backed by what it needs to succeed?

According to a new RAND report, the Pentagon must improve in several areas to receive the maximum benefit from AI. The authors recommend leveraging new advances in this emerging technology, paying special attention to verification, validation, testing, evaluation, and ethics. It's also important for leaders to maintain realistic expectations for progress.

A refugee mother looks at her smartphone after arriving by rubber raft from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos near the port city of Mytilene, Greece, March 9, 2016, photo by Kay Nietfeld/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

A refugee mother looks at her smartphone after arriving by raft from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, March 9, 2016

Photo by Kay Nietfeld/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

How Technology Could Help Refugees—and Those Who Help Them

Last year, the global population of forcibly displaced people reached 71 million. This growing crisis is straining host countries, the international humanitarian system and, of course, refugees themselves. A new RAND report details how technology can be part of the solution. To better understand needs and opportunities, the authors conducted focus groups with refugees in Colombia, Greece, Jordan, and the United States.

A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop on the Getty Fire as it burns in the hills of West Los Angeles, California, October 28, 2019, photo by Gene Blevins/Reuters

A firefighting helicopter drops water on the Getty Fire in the hills of West Los Angeles, California, October 28, 2019

Photo by Gene Blevins/Reuters

Getty Fire: One RAND Researcher's Story

RAND's Robert Lempert studies climate change risk management. In October, his professional and personal lives collided when he was ordered to evacuate his home in the middle of the night to escape a spreading wildfire. Lempert's experience emphasized the challenges of adapting to climate change, “not merely because it is hard, but because it makes the familiar become unfamiliar in unexpected ways.”

Colonies of E. coli bacteria grown on a Hektoen enteric agar plate, photo by CDC via Reuters

Colonies of E. coli bacteria grown in a lab

Photo by CDC via Reuters

New Perils for Global Health Security

Infectious disease can be deadlier than a world war. But a lethal pandemic isn't the only risk to global health. A new RAND paper identifies two kinds of problems that are less obvious, but more insidious. First, there are “slow-burn” problems that may not receive enough attention—until it's too late. Think: drug-resistant “superbugs.” Second, there are emerging technologies that could be weaponized, such as gene editing and 3D printing. What do policymakers need to understand to address both types of threats?

A happy teacher calls on a student in her elementary school classroom, photo by skynesher/Getty Images

Photo by skynesher/Getty Images

Improving School and Classroom Climate

Positive school and classroom climates are associated with improved student achievement, higher attendance and graduation rates, and lower rates of suspension. But the concept of climate is difficult to define and measure. That's where a new RAND report comes in. The study can serve as a resource to help educators and policymakers build positive, safe, and inclusive schools and classrooms.

Circuit board with chip with image of missile, photo by guirong hao/Getty Images

Photo by guirong hao/Getty Images

Artificial Intelligence for Peace?

The world is at the dawn of the artificial intelligence age. There is great uncertainty, serious risk, and even the potential for chaos. But there are also peaceful applications of this new technology, says RAND's Patrick Roberts. Washington would be the natural leader of a worldwide AI peace effort, he says: “The United States can build global consensus…to reduce risks and make the world safe for one of its leading technologies—one that's valuable to U.S. industry and to humanity.”

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