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Experts at JNU dwell on the pros and cons of Artificial Intelligence
The Special Centre for Disaster Research (SCDR), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in collaboration with NITI Aayog, National Disaster Management Authority of India, National Institute of Disaster Management (NDMA), Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), Skymet Weather and Springer Nature organized a three-day Global Symposium on Artificial Intelligence in Governance and Disaster Management at JNU, New Delhi.

The inaugural programme was held Saturday, 11 March, 2019 at the Convention Centre of JNU, New Delhi. Prof VK Saraswat, Chancellor of JNU and Member, NITI Aayog highlighted key areas like healthcare, agriculture, education, city infrastructure, etc where Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used for either preventing losses or mitigating damages. He said that there were various steps to AI like reasoning, machine navigation, language, perception, soft AI, strong Ai with a focus on pointed challenges, etc. "These measures of AI", said he, "fills the gap between sense, think and act and, also learn."

Dr Braj Bihari Kumar, chairman, ICSSR called AI the subject of his interest and not the subject of his expertise and, henceforth the need for learning from experts. He warned against the dangers that AI may create if it wasn't applied keeping human needs at the centre of this new technological tool. While suggesting sensible use of AI in mitigating the impact of disasters, Dr Kumar lamented the absence of research from social scientists in as important an area as flood to help create public awareness. When floods come, they create huge problems, he said and questioned as to why there was no research about causes of flood by social scientists. Where were the social scientists when Koshi floods came?, asked he. He welcomed the emerging discipline of AI but warned against the possible challenges it might throw if it was not used under proper regulations from the outset keeping, at the same time, humans at the centre.

Lt. Gen NC Marwah, Member, NDMA said that there were various ways and tools to prevent disasters and make post-disaster damage assessment. The AI can be used as one of them.

Prof Robin R. Murphy of Texas University, USA delivered key note address online through video conferencing flashing some major flood reports where AI had helped greatly during crises. She however said, in response to a question that they were not able to predict any disaster from AI. 

Earlier there was a media interaction on the theme where media persons generally threw brief light on AI's utility in media. For most media representatives the topic was relatively new than it is in some of the western countries where major media houses have already been using it. Dr Robert Thongkholal Haokib of JNU suggested that news reporters and AI could be complementary.  Ms Embassy Lawbei, Assistant Professor, Christ University, Bangaluru, who earlier worked as a journalist, came up with some fine points from her own work experiences in Mizoram where, she felt, AI could be helpful in early warning and damage control due to land slide in areas which are far from district centres or the state capital. She said that earlier there was scarcity of information which was a problem, while now there is too much of information which again creates problem. In that situation, "Government should step up and verify the information to prevent panic". It is where AI could be helpful, she opined. She was seconded by journalist Ayash Arif from Jammu and Kashmir, which witnessed huge flood few years ago.

Some of the common concerns raised by participants with future use of AI were perception of the audience, sustainability, human element, objectivity, authenticity and human need. Prof Mondira Dutta said that AI could be implemented in child-trafficking as well.

A press release by SCDR stated that the three-day symposium from March 11-13 reflects on intensive preparedness required to address the problem of recurrent disasters, which have grown in frequency as well as their uncertain destructive ability. It is now beyond human capacity to assure safety and protection from the wide range and varieties of disasters. The use of AI, Machine Learning and Robots can help tremendously in disaster preparedness and community resilience building, which would lead to greater safety of public life and institutions.

JNU VC Prof M. Jagadesh Kumar welcomed the guests and also shared his thoughts. Prof T.V. Vijay Kumar of JNU and Dr Keshav Sud of Amazon Robotics, USA coordinated the symposium. Prof Amita Sigh, Chairperson, SCDR chaired the valedictory session on 13 March, 2019 and also shared her insights. Senior faculty members, scholars and experts from India and abroad and media persons attended the symposium.

(The author is a journalist and research scholar based in New Delhi)

The Special Centre for Disaster Research (SCDR), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in collaboration with NITI Aayog, National Disaster Management Authority of India, National Institute of Disaster Management (NDMA), Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), Skymet Weather and Springer Nature organized a three-day Global Symposium on Artificial Intelligence in Governance and Disaster Management at JNU, New Delhi.

The inaugural programme was held Saturday, 11 March, 2019 at the Convention Centre of JNU, New Delhi. Prof V.K. Saraswat, Chancellor of JNU and Member, NITI Aayog highlighted key areas like healthcare, agriculture, education, city infrastructure, etc where Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used for either preventing losses or mitigating damages. He said that there were various steps to AI like reasoning, machine navigation, language, perception, soft AI, strong Ai with a focus on pointed challenges, etc. "These measures of AI", said he, "fills the gap between sense, think and act and, also learn."

Dr Braj Bihari Kumar, chairman, ICSSR called AI the subject of his interest and not the subject of his expertise and, henceforth the need for learning from experts. He warned against the dangers that AI may create if it wasn't applied keeping human needs at the centre of this new technological tool. While suggesting sensible use of AI in mitigating the impact of disasters, Dr Kumar lamented the absence of research from social scientists in as important an area as flood to help create public awareness. When floods come, they create huge problems, he said and questioned as to why there was no research about causes of flood by social scientists. Where were the social scientists when Koshi floods came?, asked he. He welcomed the emerging discipline of AI but warned against the possible challenges it might throw if it was not used under proper regulations from the outset keeping, at the same time, humans at the centre.

Lt. Gen NC Marwah, Member, NDMA said that there were various ways and tools to prevent disasters and make post-disaster damage assessment. The AI can be used as one of them.

Prof Robin R. Murphy of Texas University, USA delivered key note address online through video conferencing flashing some major flood reports where AI had helped greatly during crises. She however said, in response to a question that they were not able to predict any disaster from AI. 

Earlier there was a media interaction on the theme where media persons generally threw brief light on AI's utility in media. For most media representatives the topic was relatively new than it is in some of the western countries where major media houses have already been using it. Dr Robert Thongkholal Haokib of JNU suggested that news reporters and AI could be complementary.  Ms Embassy Lawbei, Assistant Professor, Christ University, Bangaluru, who earlier worked as a journalist, came up with some fine points from her own work experiences in Mizoram where, she felt, AI could be helpful in early warning and damage control due to land slide in areas which are far from district centres or the state capital. She said that earlier there was scarcity of information which was a problem, while now there is too much of information which again creates problem. In that situation, "Government should step up and verify the information to prevent panic". It is where AI could be helpful, she opined. She was seconded by journalist Ayash Arif from Jammu and Kashmir, which witnessed huge flood few years ago.

Some of the common concerns raised by participants with future use of AI were perception of the audience, sustainability, human element, objectivity, authenticity and human need. Prof Mondira Dutta said that AI could be implemented in child-trafficking as well.

A press release by SCDR stated that the three-day symposium from March 11-13 reflects on intensive preparedness required to address the problem of recurrent disasters, which have grown in frequency as well as their uncertain destructive ability. It is now beyond human capacity to assure safety and protection from the wide range and varieties of disasters. The use of AI, Machine Learning and Robots can help tremendously in disaster preparedness and community resilience building, which would lead to greater safety of public life and institutions.

JNU VC Prof M. Jagadesh Kumar welcomed the guests and also shared his thoughts. Prof T.V. Vijay Kumar of JNU and Dr Keshav Sud of Amazon Robotics, USA coordinated the symposium. Prof Amita Sigh, Chairperson, SCDR chaired the valedictory session on 13 March, 2019 and also shared her insights. Senior faculty members, scholars and experts from India and abroad and media persons attended the symposium.

(The author is a journalist and research scholar based in New Delhi)

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