Op-Ed: COVID-19, “Pandemic Diplomacy,” and Re-shaping of the World Order

COVID-19 Outbreak World Map.

by Siddharth
Graduate Fellow Editor

It is safe to say that no other single event in the 21st century after the 9/11 attacks has had a greater impact in the geopolitical arena than the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. What began as a disease traced to a wet animal market in China, COVID-19 is already shaping geopolitics across the world. While in a democracy, civil rights groups would have almost surely ensured that no wild animals (let alone endangered species like pangolins) could be sold for consumption, in China, the authoritarian government has allowed wet animal markets to flourish. As a result, here we are, a delicacy for some has transformed into becoming a global pandemic with China itself as its biggest victim.

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UCSD Event: Is Populism Reshaping Social Protection in Latin America?

As more right-wing populist leaders appear throughout Latin America, Brazilian economist Tiago Falcão gave a presentation at the Institute of the Americas to speak on how this new phenomenon will influence government social spending programs. 

by Rebeca Camacho
Managing Editor

With the rise of populist leaders all throughout the world, scrutiny of social welfare programs reclaimed attention in the political sphere. On Wednesday, January 29, 2020 the University of California, San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy and Center on Global Transformation hosted Pacific Leadership Fellow and Brazilian economist Tiago Falcão, who gave a presentation on the resurgence of populism and its implications on social welfare programs in Latin America. The event took place in the Malamud Room, located in the Institute of the Americas where many scholars, researchers, and industry experts meet to evaluate developments in the region.

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AI: Changing the Tides of Water Sustainability

By Tanvi Bajaj
Staff Writer

In 2015, Senator James Inhofe confidently stepped onto the Senate floor, carrying a snowball. He then explained how global warming (and, in effect, climate change) could simply not exist since it was cold enough outside for the snowball he was holding in his hand to form.  

While laughable, Senator Inhofe’s argument is indicative of the centuries of neglect the environment has suffered at human hands. 

Today, sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting, forests are burning, and animals are dying. 

It’s clear that something needs to change. 

Over the last few years, the use of artificial intelligence and its potential repercussions have been the source of many controversies. Morality and ethics have been called into question, as people share their fears that AI may soon render humans (especially in blue collar jobs) obsolete. While these concerns are valid, recent findings show that the development of artificial intelligence may have an unforeseen benefit. 

Artificial intelligence is poised to become the biggest game-changer in the face of climate change. According to a World Economic Forum report, AI refers to computer systems that “can sense their environment, think, learn, and act in response to what they perceive and their programmed purposes”. 

In 2015, the 193 members of the United Nations passed a resolution that put into place a 15 year plan of achieving 17 Sustainable Development goals by 2030 (SDGs). Then in 2017, the UN Artificial Intelligence Summit in Geneva suggested refocusing the use of AI technology to help achieve these goals and encourage long-lasting global sustainability. 

All over the globe, 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water while 4.5 billion people live without safe sanitation systems–with nearly one thousand children dying due to preventable water and sanitation related diseases every day. 

The problem is twofold: not only do people not have access to water, but often times, the water they do have access to is contaminated. AI is being used to mitigate the effects of a lack of clean water in a number of ways. Clean Water AI tackles the issue of water filtration by alerting users when water needs to be further filtered. A prototype IoT device uses pattern recognition and machine learning to inspect water quality through a digital microscope. These test systems could dramatically prevent disease and save thousands of lives simply by providing accurate information that would alert users as to whether or not their water needs to be further filtered. 

And if the water does need further filtering, AI can help to do so. For example, EMAGIN, an Oregon-based company, is using AI to create more accurate and timely information about the kinds of pollutants in water, make recommendations for treatments, allow facility operators to more effectively clean incoming wastewater, and prevent overflows. 

AI has the potential to revolutionize access to water and waste management systems, culminating in the development of fully decentralized water systems: in this system, water and wastewater treatment plants are located at the site of the water supply–preferable to large treatment plans that require miles of expensive infrastructure and are subject to contamination. 

Preserving our Earth’s natural resources and focusing on sustainability have never been as crucial as they are right now. While most of this AI is still in the process of being developed, its very existence is key in impacting the future of the planet in the upcoming years. More importantly, using something like AI (which was originally developed solely for computational and technological purposes) to support environmental sustainability sets an important precedent for all technology that is, and will be developed. The very nature of the UN acknowledging AI as a worthy investment to reach its SDGs is a testament to the potential that this technology has to improve different aspects of human life. 

The widespread impacts that just AI prototypes have had point to the necessity for greater investment into this growing field. Technology can and will be repurposed to solve world issues; and the aforementioned technologies prove that AI should be used to serve our larger global community. The time for action is now. And when the rest of the planet realizes the undiscovered possibilities of artificial intelligence, waves of change will follow. 

Photos courtesy of:
Pixaby