Resilience in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Summary of a talk given at the “World Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Governance and Disaster Management” held at JNU, New Delhi on March 11-13th, 2019)

Dr. Acharya Shambhushivananda Avadhuta

From a cosmological perspective, the Artificial or Augmented Intelligence (AI) toolkit should be perceived as an extension of Natural or Native Intelligence (NI). Each living being is endowed with NI and consciously or unconsciously utilizes it to survive, grow, and serve others. As eloquently expressed by philosopher-seer Shrii P.R Sarkar as early as 1959, “What the Cosmic Mind has been doing in a tangible manner will continue to be done on this earth by unit minds, in gradual steps.” Technologies like AI, by freeing our minds from mundane preoccupations, also serve the divine purpose of aiding us to move towards transcendence. Science has already liberated us from hard labor. The digital revolution and AI are now promising to liberate us from the drudgery of repetitive chores and provide us with efficient and customized management of big data.

Disasters are reminders to correct imbalances that have crept into every sphere of human life. Resilience cannot be brought about unless we build systems that are friendly to all animate and so-called inanimate entities. The techno-ethical issues related to AI are the concerns of algorithmic biases, equity, dignity, health, privacy, safety, transparency, fairness, addictive propensity and accentuation of wage-productivity gaps. On the other hand, AI can contribute greatly in helping us improve disaster management responses and fulfill millennium development goals (MDGs) for the entire globe. For instance, the primary task of ensuring balance in the economic sphere (prama-samvriddhi) entails taking care of three aspects: assessment of material needs; monitoring purchasing power of communities; and, ensuring the availability of goods and services. AI should be utilized to help us monitor that customized data and assist us with policy decisions for these tasks.

Divine Providence has endowed humans with an immense power and an apparent free will to use it benevolently or malevolently. Technology by itself is never value-laden. It is human beings who make it a boon or a curse. Hence there is a need for “morally conscious, emotionally sensitive and enlightened leaders” to ensure the benevolent use of this powerful tool for social good. The choice is ours. Do we relegate ourselves to become mere robots bereft of subtle human sentiments? Should we let technologies translate economic inequalities into biological inequalities and make ordinary humans “useless”? Or do we take responsibility to ‘own’ these technologies and deal with their consequences through proper systems of accountability, ethical frameworks and regulatory mechanisms? Inner urge and external pressure would both be needed to ensure the benevolent use of AI and related technologies. The goal should be to establish resilient and sustainable communities where MDGs are achieved. The aspiration of humanity to foster subtle sentiments, supportive human relationships, creative expressions, intuitional development, wisdom and spiritual equipoise cannot be relegated to a subservient position as we embark on using AI in greater measure.

As we utilize AI to build more effective disaster management capabilities, we should also be aware that it is ultimately the people who utilize the technologies, and they can use it for social good or to serve only vested interests—personal or institutional. While building smart infrastructures, we should never lose sight of the broader concern for building a compassionate and just society. A resilient society can only be built on the quality of its people. Data, Information and Knowledge must ultimately be guided by wisdom and higher consciousness in which there is love, empathy, compassion and inclusiveness. It is such qualities that distinguish us from machines and make us truly ‘human’. Let the AI revolution grow under the banner of universal love (neohumanism) and be good for both animate and inanimate entities. Echoing the words of Albert Einstein, “The fate of humanity is entirely dependent upon its moral development.” We are concerned today not merely with the technical problem of securing and maintaining worldly comforts and outer peace. We also need inner peace, so we should be eagerly concerned with the important tasks of education and enlightenment. Thus, age-appropriate courses on “The History of Moral Advancement” need to be developed and should be made an integral part of curricula in all our academic institutions as we explore wider applications for establishing a resilient society.

The development of a resilient society requires more than mere application of technology for material ends. The moral and spiritual fiber of nations needs equal attention. While it may be easier to establish physical equipoise in the mundane sphere, as some western nations claim to have achieved, it is more difficult to achieve mental equanimity. It is no surprise therefore that yoga and meditation have become household words in response to a compelling need to deal with the menace of ‘stress’ in the modern world. Thus, a proper socio-economic theory, neohumanist values, a spirit of service, cooperative mentality and survival skills contribute greatly to enhancing the resilience capability of a community. The endeavor to create a GLOBAL NEOHUMANIST VISION * can also inspire the younger generation to envision a world free from self-centered worldviews and myopic visions of the future.

envisioning resilient sustainable smart communities

where there is freedom, without fears; and,
a constant endeavor for harmony among all species;
where good health of all is the norm; and
there is local sustenance: free from scarcities, poverty & disparities and, where purchasing power of all keeps improving;

where conflicts are resolved through dialogues
and challenges are faced with optimism and courage;
where uniqueness and diversities are celebrated;
where ethics is the foundation of personal & social life;

where science & technology are dedicated to welfare;
where higher-consciousness guides all forms of biological & Artificial Intelligence;

where religion & spirituality affirm cosmic kinship and rationality;
where creativity, imagination, fine arts are for service and blessedness; and, where compassion, humor, joy & universal love pervade & reign!

where deep-education (NHE)* inculcates and nurtures “deeper understandings, cardinal values, innovations and leadership”; Relief Teams lend a ready helping hand in disasters; and The Renaissance Movement & PROUT** offer a new paradigm for self-sufficiency and economics of abundance and coordinated cooperation.

*Neohumanist Education (NHE) ** Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT)

World symposium on “Artificial Intelligence, Governance and Disaster Management”
– a report

A three-day world symposium on “Artificial Intelligence, Governance and Disaster Management” was held under the auspices of the “Special Centre of Disaster Research” (SCDR) of JN University (New Delhi) from March 11th-13th, 2019. It was held in collaboration with the National Institute of Disaster Management; the UN Asia-Pacific Office of Disaster Risk Reduction; NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority); Niti-Ayog (National Planning Body) of the Government of India; Springer Publications; Skymet Weather; participants from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Israel, Qatar, the USA and Afghanistan; reputed scholars from over a dozen universities; high level officers and researchers of the Indian National Army; JNU students and Media Representatives.

Dr Shambhushivananda ( of the Neohumanist Movement was invited to share the neohumanist perspective on resilience and emphasized the need for elevated consciousness in order to ensure that AI contributes toward building a balanced, compassionate and just society. Prof Amita Singh, Prof T.V. Vijay Kumar, and Dr Keshav Sud led the symposium which explored the constructive role that AI can play in different stages of disaster management. Dr Sarawat, Chancellor of JNU and Member of Niti Ayog, gave a very informative presentation on AI and its potential applications for social good. Dr Robin Murphy gave an interactive presentation from Texas, USA, and concluded that not using AI and Robotics in disaster management situations would amount to loss of life and would be unethical.

Prof Vijay Kumar made a subtle distinction between calamities and disasters. Calamities turn into disasters due to our lack of preparedness. A highlight of the symposium was presentations by the men in uniform who have been playing the crucial role of first and second responders. Their contribution and use of technology was an eye-opener for most participants. Dr Ferda Ofli from the Qatar Computing Research Institute of Qatar shared the open-software that they have developed to be used by anyone for an appropriate digital response as well as in such fields as education. Dr Eran Lederman from Bezalel Academy of Israel gave a fascinating presentation on “Your Face Print can Save your Life”, elaborating on the role of relevant design in disaster preparedness. Dr Vaishali Mamgain from the USA led an experiential exercise on the importance of a multi-sensory approach to caregiving.

Dr Shambhushivananda also entertained and uplifted the audience at the end of the valedictory session through a Prabhat Samgiita song titled ‘I love this tiny green island’ and Baba-Nam-Kevalam chant. Dr Pramod Kumar, Registrar of J.N. University emphasized the importance of collecting and utilizing the indigenous knowledge that still lies hidden in remote communities. Springer Publication House signed an MOU with SCDR to publish the proceedings of this symposium and hopes to make “The Handbook of Disaster Management” available to the public in the very near future. Research teams from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan enlightened the participants on use of AI initiatives in their countries. The role of community engagement was also shown to be very significant in most situations. AI for disaster management and the ethical and legal issues associated with the use of this new set of technologies were also discussed. Dr Animesh Kumar of the UN Office of DRR chaired the session on Using AI to support Vulnerable Groups (children, livestock, birds, physically challenged persons, old and sick, etc.) and shared his penetrating insights on the subject.