Issue Brief on “Artificial Intelligence for Flood Prediction and Management: Lessons for Pakistan”

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Pakistan is being ravaged by the worst floods in recent history – attributed to the growing dangers of climate catastrophe. One-third of a developing country submerged in water, estimating over US$20bn loss and around 1700 deaths while affecting over 33 million people[1] is nerve-wracking. The latest disaster and its grave human, economic and environmental security implications yet again highlight Pakistan’s vulnerability to Climate Change and remind us that non-traditional challenges must be addressed by innovative approaches. Furthermore, being a human-triggered disaster, it places a greater need for and responsibility upon management by humans themselves. This is where man-made technologies, namely Artificial Intelligence (AI), come into play.

AI, as an emerging technology that has revolutionised security, is frequently quoted, but relatively less understood. IEEE-USA defines it as “the theory and development of computer systems capable of performing tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception and natural language processing.” [2] India’s National AI Strategy Discussion Paper refers to it as “a constellation of technologies that enable machines to act with higher levels of intelligence and emulate human capabilities of sense, comprehend, and act.” [3] While these technologies are inspired by humans and other biological beings, they vary in working and thus impact. Experts diverge in their views on the nature and scope of this impact. However, one thing remains uncontested: AI has huge, unquantified and even unrealised potential to meet evolving security needs. But given its dual-use feature, the real challenge is to harness this potential in a useful but peaceful manner.

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