.
P

re-2020 common sense:

“There is no way we can shut down these factories.”

“Living without air travel in the 21st century? Impossible!”

“Seriously? If we shut all these things down, we may as well just turn off most of the global economic engines and go home!”

In the past few months, this last exclamation has become more of a reality than a doomsday scenario. The COVID-19 pandemic has blown every one of these nuggets of conventional wisdom to smithereens. As terrible a toll as the pandemic has exacted from nearly every country and community by now, it has also brought about an opening of new vistas and a vision of how things could be in the future, in ways we never imagined were possible. If you believe in miracles—or at least in the power of changing the world—we invite you to join us on a journey that is at the very beginning of unfurling in the minds of millions around the world. Walk with us as we imagine an optimistic vision for a globalized world that values inclusion and strong communities, looking out for the world and for one another.

In the world as it was, interconnectivity was a necessary condition for globalization. Unfortunately, left unchecked, that interconnectivity, which has brought so many together, has also led to an unprecedented vulnerability to economical, societal, and ecological domino effects (as Bartol & Coden stated in 2017). However controversial its spread has been, most business and community leaders are calling for globalization in a new shape; not a roll-back of the planet to pre-global conditions. Our notion of globalization aims to be even more people-centered, supported and skyrocketed by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

At the same time, every one of us read (or perhaps even experienced first-hand) with horror the drama of life and death as it exploded and played out in and among communities. Globalization simply could not replace the local hospital, the community kitchen, the teachers who had to rapidly shift into digital education mode, the maintenance and critical service personnel who make the local worlds inside the big globe, go around. Those communities who invested in their infrastructure, those societies which responded well with the right measures, fared far better and their people endured less suffering than those that did or could not. After COVID-19, it’s a safe bet to say that no one who lived in a community which was better prepared to take care of them is going to argue against the value of building local expertise and resilience.  

Hence, we call our proposal for a new, more sustainable global narrative “the new Glocalism.” As we envision it, Glocalism in its perfect form is the inherent interdependence of high-functioning local economies and societies on the micro level, and a richly interconnected globalized world on the macro level. In a nutshell, we believe in the power of Thinking Globally and Acting Locally. It seems that communities are in the best position to ignite this fire, and technologies like AI will play a major role in fueling it as it takes shape. And, yes, we think the time is right to leave apocalyptic scenarios in the dust and pursue this dream.

Reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic and a world suffering from many other tribulations, such as the wars in Syria and Yemen, or the global financial crisis in 2008, populists all over the world are trying to pull their old romanticized nationalist narratives out of the mothballs. Politicians like Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán try to push nationalism and autocracy under the guise of protecting public health. This is the wrong trajectory. As Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, framed it, “withdrawing support from globalization is taking us in the wrong direction.” COVID-19 has shown us that the same globalization that made it possible to spread a pandemic also made it possible for humans to collaborate to find a cure in ways they otherwise could not have. If we want to build bridges and not walls, our mindset should start shifting towards creating resilience and effective systems of checks and balances. Can technologies such AI help us do this? How?

The Necessity of “Systems Thinking” and Shared Data

We have built our new glocalist vision on the foundation of three key assumptions:

1. When it comes to technological innovations—at least the machine learning that drives most of today’s AI—depends on the quality of the underlying data. There is much benefit that humanity can derive from sharing key data for the success of technology as a common resource. Our privacy debates have gotten increasingly stuck in a deadlock. To those of you who might say, “you want me to share my gold?” our humble response is, “some of it, yes.” Well done on recognizing that data is the new gold, but we need to finally make this gold a public good and start collaboratively thinking about its safe usage. A glance at Estonia’s public data system is worth a read in this context.

2. Dialogue—and eventually consensus around checks and balances—is critical if we are going to have a world where the riches of globalization benefit communities everywhere. We cannot think in bits and pieces any more, we must all become adept at recognizing interconnections and the bigger picture. Interconnectivity needs appropriate regulation, but more importantly awareness and preparedness for system failures or unforeseen events.

3. The way to reliably achieve both 1) and 2) is by making “systems thinking” a mandatory subject in schools all over the world. A new common goal for our precious, but often quarreling multilateral organizations. This corresponds to the UN’s SDG 4 (Quality Education).

We mentioned AI as one of these disruptive, yet promising, forces of our proposed new glocalism. Let us examine, with some examples, how AI can support the vision we have imagined, across humanity, for all societies, enabling and transforming healthcare, travel, energy, art, and even off-planet travel.

For years, systems thinkers around the world have been calling upon us to understand the interconnectedness of our choices and their outcomes to the natural world, which surrounds and nourishes us. 2020 started off with the COVID-19 bang, which continues to foment and torment nearly the entire human world. Every aspect of life, from the rhythms of community to the global supply chain of materials and finished goods, to intergenerational interaction, has been turned on its head; already existing crises have become even more complex.

Every human is impacted by today’s technological shifts. Addressing this impact on the individual level is just as important as tackling it on the societal level. When it comes to AI, for a long time the dialogue has been around whether we should strive for the development of a sci-fi-like superhuman or cyborg.

Every human is impacted by today’s technological shifts. Addressing this impact on the individual level is just as important as tackling it on the societal level. When it comes to AI, for a long time the dialogue has been around whether we should strive for the development of a sci-fi-like superhuman or cyborg.

AI in the Service of Humanity

Yet, the pandemic has made seemingly impossible things happen. The skies over world metropolises such as New Delhi, Jakarta, Tokyo, and New York City sparkle blue like in pre-industrial times. Wild animals are roaming parks and places they would never otherwise dare to enter. City noises are a thing of the past (except the sirens). The night sky is peppered with sparkly stars. Never before has the interconnectedness of the planet been on display as it is now. These are unprecedented times and they’re proving to us that not everything we take for granted is so, that we must put humanity’s collective will and creativity to use to build resilience at the community level. In our global world, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we are only as safe, or as healthy, or as sustainably prosperous as our weakest and most vulnerable. Can AI help? We think yes. What if we used AI to understand better how to:

1. Protect industries by distributing their supply chains around the world and at the same time, building manufacturing strength locally.

2. Enable physicians and researchers to share data and research outcomes and at the same time, invest into robust hospital infrastructure and teaching programs at the country-level.

3. Create common-property data sets to power extremely intelligent global forecasting systems which can be deployed at the community level in times of threat from global events, pandemics, war or civil unrest.

Every human is impacted by today’s technological shifts. Addressing this impact on the individual level is just as important as tackling it on the societal level. When it comes to AI, for a long time the dialogue has been around whether we should strive for the development of a sci-fi-like superhuman or cyborg. Or, should we restrict the further development towards artificial general intelligence and finally superintelligence. AI governance, legal boundaries, and stable AI ethical principles will be crucial to avoid irreversible damage for humanity, potentially caused by the evil use of AI or unintended consequences of it. In addition, we want to shed light on the huge potential of AI in the service of humanity. The tiring battle between tech enthusiasts and tech skeptics impedes our view of the countless opportunities.

Augmenting, Not Replacing Human Intelligence

First of all, it is important to understand that the goal of creating and strengthening AI-powered systems should not be a goal in itself. Moreover, we stand for an AI whose goal is complementing and enhancing human intelligence rather than replacing it. A few great applied examples are:

• Anticipating the risk and mitigating the aftermath of natural and human catastrophes using fast performing disaster prediction and resources allocation systems, such as a machine learning—driven map of water sources in crisis zones.

• Creation of AI tools to efficiently fight the spread of fake news, demagoguery, and targeted misinformation. As elaborated by Marr (2020) artificial intelligence can be used to verify the truth of articles. Since the amount of content generated daily is too much for humans to effectively monitor, artificial intelligence offers a solution that makes it possible to unmask fake news and the distortion of facts.

• Remote voting systems to keep democracy alive during lockdowns, such as the current one. Democratic institutions should never be silenced, freedom of expression should not be a “fair weather human right.” Luckily, several working groups, which emerged out of the numerous fully virtual “fight COVID-19” hackathons all over the world have already attended to this matter and started advising governments and other decision-making bodies.

• A virtual “Stammtisch” app where interested people are matched by AI algorithms to other users in order to create new contacts and to fuel new inspirational thoughts, notably in times of physical distancing.

• Re-imagining what is possible for the most vulnerable among us, as well as cities and governments from being able to deploy AI right at the edge. Safely and protecting the dignity and agency of the humans it serves.

Many more so-called “AI for Good” use cases can be explored in this comprehensive analysis or by attending the AI for Good Summit in Geneva in fall 2020.  

We already briefly introduced you to the concept of common-property data. Now, let’s apply it to human health. If there is one major lesson the pandemic has taught us, it is that sometimes learning from one another can literally make the difference between life and death. Our world, when we are not shuttered by a nanoscopic virus, is full of movement: of people, of goods, of services, of solutions, and of trouble as well. In such a world, we already have the means to use technology to bring increasing levels of care and health security to everyone on the planet. We ask ourselves, if an entire society is trained to be systems thinkers and problem solvers, what is possible for us in improving our healthcare? The sky does seem to be the limit. It is imperative that we share certain health and well-being data into a common pool that belongs to all humanity and can be made available to innovators and researchers, as well as governments and companies. This data pool will allow us to develop AI-inspired solutions faster with more effective outcomes, which can be deployed where needed in our communities and beyond. The first such “common pool data” examples are already out there, we just have to scale them up to a universal level. Obviously, this will require us to trust and communicate in ways beyond what we are currently used to, but what is the alternative? Not unveiling healthcare’s full potential?

Be it space-traveling, political debate, energy production or our century-old passion for the arts—our newly created glocalism provides an idealistic but achievable vision of the world in a few years. Technologies such as AI can help, but a variety of ingredients will make the right mix for this new recipe for a less vulnerable global society. Let us embark on this journey together.

In future articles, we will examine in depth how common-data pools, global-level forecasting and local application might be applied in areas critical to human wellbeing in the future: healthcare, energy, travel (get ready for a spicy debate), education, artistic visions, and even off-world topics.

About
Luca Flurin Brunner
:
Luca Brunner is Managing Director of CognitiveValley - The AI Movement, a Switzerland-based foundation on artificial intelligence and its implications. Luca is also Co-Head and Co-Founder of the global network of grassroots think tanks “Open Think Tank Network”.
About
Shalini Trefzer
:
Shalini Trefzer is a Diplomatic Courier Contributing Editor and Executive Director of the World in 2050, an initiative of Diplomatic Courier. Her passion is to give a voice and platform to huge-potential innovations from regions that don’t normally receive the spotlight.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

The Case for a New Glocalism, Powered by AI

May 11, 2020

P

re-2020 common sense:

“There is no way we can shut down these factories.”

“Living without air travel in the 21st century? Impossible!”

“Seriously? If we shut all these things down, we may as well just turn off most of the global economic engines and go home!”

In the past few months, this last exclamation has become more of a reality than a doomsday scenario. The COVID-19 pandemic has blown every one of these nuggets of conventional wisdom to smithereens. As terrible a toll as the pandemic has exacted from nearly every country and community by now, it has also brought about an opening of new vistas and a vision of how things could be in the future, in ways we never imagined were possible. If you believe in miracles—or at least in the power of changing the world—we invite you to join us on a journey that is at the very beginning of unfurling in the minds of millions around the world. Walk with us as we imagine an optimistic vision for a globalized world that values inclusion and strong communities, looking out for the world and for one another.

In the world as it was, interconnectivity was a necessary condition for globalization. Unfortunately, left unchecked, that interconnectivity, which has brought so many together, has also led to an unprecedented vulnerability to economical, societal, and ecological domino effects (as Bartol & Coden stated in 2017). However controversial its spread has been, most business and community leaders are calling for globalization in a new shape; not a roll-back of the planet to pre-global conditions. Our notion of globalization aims to be even more people-centered, supported and skyrocketed by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

At the same time, every one of us read (or perhaps even experienced first-hand) with horror the drama of life and death as it exploded and played out in and among communities. Globalization simply could not replace the local hospital, the community kitchen, the teachers who had to rapidly shift into digital education mode, the maintenance and critical service personnel who make the local worlds inside the big globe, go around. Those communities who invested in their infrastructure, those societies which responded well with the right measures, fared far better and their people endured less suffering than those that did or could not. After COVID-19, it’s a safe bet to say that no one who lived in a community which was better prepared to take care of them is going to argue against the value of building local expertise and resilience.  

Hence, we call our proposal for a new, more sustainable global narrative “the new Glocalism.” As we envision it, Glocalism in its perfect form is the inherent interdependence of high-functioning local economies and societies on the micro level, and a richly interconnected globalized world on the macro level. In a nutshell, we believe in the power of Thinking Globally and Acting Locally. It seems that communities are in the best position to ignite this fire, and technologies like AI will play a major role in fueling it as it takes shape. And, yes, we think the time is right to leave apocalyptic scenarios in the dust and pursue this dream.

Reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic and a world suffering from many other tribulations, such as the wars in Syria and Yemen, or the global financial crisis in 2008, populists all over the world are trying to pull their old romanticized nationalist narratives out of the mothballs. Politicians like Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán try to push nationalism and autocracy under the guise of protecting public health. This is the wrong trajectory. As Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, framed it, “withdrawing support from globalization is taking us in the wrong direction.” COVID-19 has shown us that the same globalization that made it possible to spread a pandemic also made it possible for humans to collaborate to find a cure in ways they otherwise could not have. If we want to build bridges and not walls, our mindset should start shifting towards creating resilience and effective systems of checks and balances. Can technologies such AI help us do this? How?

The Necessity of “Systems Thinking” and Shared Data

We have built our new glocalist vision on the foundation of three key assumptions:

1. When it comes to technological innovations—at least the machine learning that drives most of today’s AI—depends on the quality of the underlying data. There is much benefit that humanity can derive from sharing key data for the success of technology as a common resource. Our privacy debates have gotten increasingly stuck in a deadlock. To those of you who might say, “you want me to share my gold?” our humble response is, “some of it, yes.” Well done on recognizing that data is the new gold, but we need to finally make this gold a public good and start collaboratively thinking about its safe usage. A glance at Estonia’s public data system is worth a read in this context.

2. Dialogue—and eventually consensus around checks and balances—is critical if we are going to have a world where the riches of globalization benefit communities everywhere. We cannot think in bits and pieces any more, we must all become adept at recognizing interconnections and the bigger picture. Interconnectivity needs appropriate regulation, but more importantly awareness and preparedness for system failures or unforeseen events.

3. The way to reliably achieve both 1) and 2) is by making “systems thinking” a mandatory subject in schools all over the world. A new common goal for our precious, but often quarreling multilateral organizations. This corresponds to the UN’s SDG 4 (Quality Education).

We mentioned AI as one of these disruptive, yet promising, forces of our proposed new glocalism. Let us examine, with some examples, how AI can support the vision we have imagined, across humanity, for all societies, enabling and transforming healthcare, travel, energy, art, and even off-planet travel.

For years, systems thinkers around the world have been calling upon us to understand the interconnectedness of our choices and their outcomes to the natural world, which surrounds and nourishes us. 2020 started off with the COVID-19 bang, which continues to foment and torment nearly the entire human world. Every aspect of life, from the rhythms of community to the global supply chain of materials and finished goods, to intergenerational interaction, has been turned on its head; already existing crises have become even more complex.

Every human is impacted by today’s technological shifts. Addressing this impact on the individual level is just as important as tackling it on the societal level. When it comes to AI, for a long time the dialogue has been around whether we should strive for the development of a sci-fi-like superhuman or cyborg.

Every human is impacted by today’s technological shifts. Addressing this impact on the individual level is just as important as tackling it on the societal level. When it comes to AI, for a long time the dialogue has been around whether we should strive for the development of a sci-fi-like superhuman or cyborg.

AI in the Service of Humanity

Yet, the pandemic has made seemingly impossible things happen. The skies over world metropolises such as New Delhi, Jakarta, Tokyo, and New York City sparkle blue like in pre-industrial times. Wild animals are roaming parks and places they would never otherwise dare to enter. City noises are a thing of the past (except the sirens). The night sky is peppered with sparkly stars. Never before has the interconnectedness of the planet been on display as it is now. These are unprecedented times and they’re proving to us that not everything we take for granted is so, that we must put humanity’s collective will and creativity to use to build resilience at the community level. In our global world, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we are only as safe, or as healthy, or as sustainably prosperous as our weakest and most vulnerable. Can AI help? We think yes. What if we used AI to understand better how to:

1. Protect industries by distributing their supply chains around the world and at the same time, building manufacturing strength locally.

2. Enable physicians and researchers to share data and research outcomes and at the same time, invest into robust hospital infrastructure and teaching programs at the country-level.

3. Create common-property data sets to power extremely intelligent global forecasting systems which can be deployed at the community level in times of threat from global events, pandemics, war or civil unrest.

Every human is impacted by today’s technological shifts. Addressing this impact on the individual level is just as important as tackling it on the societal level. When it comes to AI, for a long time the dialogue has been around whether we should strive for the development of a sci-fi-like superhuman or cyborg. Or, should we restrict the further development towards artificial general intelligence and finally superintelligence. AI governance, legal boundaries, and stable AI ethical principles will be crucial to avoid irreversible damage for humanity, potentially caused by the evil use of AI or unintended consequences of it. In addition, we want to shed light on the huge potential of AI in the service of humanity. The tiring battle between tech enthusiasts and tech skeptics impedes our view of the countless opportunities.

Augmenting, Not Replacing Human Intelligence

First of all, it is important to understand that the goal of creating and strengthening AI-powered systems should not be a goal in itself. Moreover, we stand for an AI whose goal is complementing and enhancing human intelligence rather than replacing it. A few great applied examples are:

• Anticipating the risk and mitigating the aftermath of natural and human catastrophes using fast performing disaster prediction and resources allocation systems, such as a machine learning—driven map of water sources in crisis zones.

• Creation of AI tools to efficiently fight the spread of fake news, demagoguery, and targeted misinformation. As elaborated by Marr (2020) artificial intelligence can be used to verify the truth of articles. Since the amount of content generated daily is too much for humans to effectively monitor, artificial intelligence offers a solution that makes it possible to unmask fake news and the distortion of facts.

• Remote voting systems to keep democracy alive during lockdowns, such as the current one. Democratic institutions should never be silenced, freedom of expression should not be a “fair weather human right.” Luckily, several working groups, which emerged out of the numerous fully virtual “fight COVID-19” hackathons all over the world have already attended to this matter and started advising governments and other decision-making bodies.

• A virtual “Stammtisch” app where interested people are matched by AI algorithms to other users in order to create new contacts and to fuel new inspirational thoughts, notably in times of physical distancing.

• Re-imagining what is possible for the most vulnerable among us, as well as cities and governments from being able to deploy AI right at the edge. Safely and protecting the dignity and agency of the humans it serves.

Many more so-called “AI for Good” use cases can be explored in this comprehensive analysis or by attending the AI for Good Summit in Geneva in fall 2020.  

We already briefly introduced you to the concept of common-property data. Now, let’s apply it to human health. If there is one major lesson the pandemic has taught us, it is that sometimes learning from one another can literally make the difference between life and death. Our world, when we are not shuttered by a nanoscopic virus, is full of movement: of people, of goods, of services, of solutions, and of trouble as well. In such a world, we already have the means to use technology to bring increasing levels of care and health security to everyone on the planet. We ask ourselves, if an entire society is trained to be systems thinkers and problem solvers, what is possible for us in improving our healthcare? The sky does seem to be the limit. It is imperative that we share certain health and well-being data into a common pool that belongs to all humanity and can be made available to innovators and researchers, as well as governments and companies. This data pool will allow us to develop AI-inspired solutions faster with more effective outcomes, which can be deployed where needed in our communities and beyond. The first such “common pool data” examples are already out there, we just have to scale them up to a universal level. Obviously, this will require us to trust and communicate in ways beyond what we are currently used to, but what is the alternative? Not unveiling healthcare’s full potential?

Be it space-traveling, political debate, energy production or our century-old passion for the arts—our newly created glocalism provides an idealistic but achievable vision of the world in a few years. Technologies such as AI can help, but a variety of ingredients will make the right mix for this new recipe for a less vulnerable global society. Let us embark on this journey together.

In future articles, we will examine in depth how common-data pools, global-level forecasting and local application might be applied in areas critical to human wellbeing in the future: healthcare, energy, travel (get ready for a spicy debate), education, artistic visions, and even off-world topics.

About
Luca Flurin Brunner
:
Luca Brunner is Managing Director of CognitiveValley - The AI Movement, a Switzerland-based foundation on artificial intelligence and its implications. Luca is also Co-Head and Co-Founder of the global network of grassroots think tanks “Open Think Tank Network”.
About
Shalini Trefzer
:
Shalini Trefzer is a Diplomatic Courier Contributing Editor and Executive Director of the World in 2050, an initiative of Diplomatic Courier. Her passion is to give a voice and platform to huge-potential innovations from regions that don’t normally receive the spotlight.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.