Insight into the PeaceTech Summit 2018

Digi.City

With its headquarters located within direct line of sight of the Lincoln Memorial and across the street from the Department of State, The United States Institute for Peace (USIP) is an independent institution devoted to the nonviolent prevention and mitigation of deadly conflicts abroad.

Nestled within this organization is a small but mighty team of future-facing individuals which comprise the PeaceTech Lab. Led by Sheldon Himelfarb, the Lab "works to reduce violent conflict using technology, media, and data to accelerate and scale peace building efforts."

On May 8 and 9th,  this team convened technologists, creatives, celebrities, and industry leaders at the PeaceTech Summit 2018 to discuss how technology can be leveraged for the planet's greater good.

Here are three quick takeaways from the event.

1. TECHNOLOGY WILL PLAY AN INCREASINGLY INTERESTING ROLE IN PEACE BUILDING

Via a world's first live experiment that demonstrated the power of music, media, and storytelling to create empathy, Lockheed Martin's Bill Casebeer (Senior Research Area Manager for Human Systems Optimization) and Beyond Conflict's founder Timothy Phillips partnered to demonstrate how a commercial electrophysiological monitoring device like Muse, a headband that can detect brain waves, could be utilized to show brain states during a variety of activities. In this instance, two opera singers became proverbial guinea pigs to show how such data could be captured.

Such data sets will enable entities to create cognitive exoskeletons that "have limitless applications to peace building, from understanding the roots of radicalization to measuring the efficacy of peace and reconciliation interventions."

While this may sound as if the technology is far off from becoming reality, similar use cases are already in play. The TSA can determine when those reviewing baggage x-rays need a break, and China has already begun mining data on an industrial scale via sensors embedded in headsets. 

This is just one of many use cases that can impact the landscape of smart cities. A plethora of technologies, specifically data mining and interpretation mechanisms will soon flood the market. This unique and important example related to peace is part of the increase in connected “things” via the Internet of Things (IoT) from 30 billion to 50 billion in just a few short years. Powering this deluge of devices will be 5G, the next generation of wireless network. Together, IoT and 5G have the power to transform communities, with equal parts increased peace and prosperity.

2. A UNIQUE ANNOUNCEMENT (BUT GARBAGE IN GARBAGE OUT)

While it is somewhat unusual for a non-profit to spin out a business, the PeaceTech Lab announced that it was in the process of doing just that. groundTruth Global is a SaaS solution designed to "provide early warning of social and economic disruption due to volatility in fragile and emerging economies."

The solution combines both human and machine intelligence to anticipate social and economic disruption worldwide. The promise and potential is significant as the platform could provide real-time alerts and visibility into local ground conditions; continuous updates of groundTruth indicators for identification of risk factors, expert commentary and trend analysis and resources to respond proactively to potential conflicts.

While this tool purportedly has the capability to outperform existing risk assessment tools by "combining multi-lingual processing, deep learning, and predictive analytics with a range of big and local data sources," it's still important to recognize that the nuance of data collection will remain a factor in its efficacy. After all, garbage in, garbage out. 

Several enterprise representatives at a pre-summit breakfast agreed r that such a tool, if effective, could prove useful in a variety of ways. Many of these are directly relevant to smart city efforts such as mitigating risks across supply chains, optimizing manufacturing pipelines, and enhancing employee travel portfolios. And these were just a few of the early and seemingly “easy” ideas - the  low hanging fruit.

3. COLLABORATION WITH A PERSONAL TOUCH IS IMPERATIVE

While it's important to recognize that technology has the potential to provide new insights and avenues to foster understanding around the world, it is imperative that we understand the moral and ethical implications of harnessing such power. As the Summit progressed, this theme recurred throughout numerous discussions and spotlights.

Facebook's Joel Kaplan echoed that hate speech was likely one of the next major initiatives that industry needs to address, Shared Studios facilitated real time interactions between Summit attendees and people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Mexico via their Portal experience. Amazon Web Services (AWS) spotlighted numerous tools and technologies which can be leveraged to scale ideas such as making children safer via facial recognition and revolutionizing charitable giving through the blockchain.

So as we increasingly encourage the integration of connected technology into every facet of our lives, it is important to realize that humans play an ever-increasing role. Whether that is through encouraging new levels of collaboration, creating never-before realized benefits, or removing antiquated barriers or anticipating the necessary safeguards around privacy and security, it is paramount that we gather leaders, as was the case at the PeaceTech Summit 2018. Peace and technology definitely belong in the same conversation.

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ADAM ZUCKERMAN

2018 Zhi-Xing Eisenhower Fellow

As Director of Ventures and Innovation at Discovery, Inc., which offers a diverse mix of nonfiction, lifestyle, sports and kids content brands (including Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and Eurosport, to name just a few) Adam Zuckerman, is the “intrapreneur” in charge of identifying, piloting and implementing future technologies for a company that distributes its products in more than 220 countries and territories. In 2011 he founded and continues to run Fosterly, an organization that helps grow Washington, D.C.-area start-ups. On fellowship he will explore the market potential of blockchain, a software platform commonly associated with tracking Bitcoin transactions, but which has the potential for many other business applications.

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