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  1. Research on the Entangled History of Humanitarianism and Human Rights
  2. Journal of Humanitarian Affairs - Manchester University Press
  3. Essays in Humanitarian Action

Data characteristics including sampling, demographics, completeness or inherent bias have different properties, hence analysis must always be put into context sooner rather than later. When talking about machine learning and the new neural network architectures that have revolutionised AI in the past few years - aka deep learning- it is important to remember that the machine will be as biased as the data that is used to train it. Though current real-world applications are mostly limited to internet business, digital marketing, playing board games or self-driving cars, there is a wealth of opportunities for AI methods to perform tasks where certain patterns are repeated.


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One of the critical issues is the need for ethical principles that can govern how artificial intelligence methods are developed and used- and how and to which extent AI should be regulated. The use of autonomous weapons or viruses targeted to individuals with a particular trait in their DNA are clear examples of data driven threats. We also need to develop privacy protection principles on the use of data and agree on frameworks for the way in which these data are processed by algorithms.

The principles of responsibility, explainability, accuracy, auditability, and fairness can guide how algorithms and AI programmes work. Certainly, the benefits will depend on the nature of the crisis - a medical emergency is not the same as a natural disaster or a conflict-affected area - as will the potential risks and harms. If in certain situations the harm comes from not using the available data, in others, insights distilled from these data could be used to target populations and cause more damage than good.

So what will the future of big data analysis and AI bring for the humanitarian field?

Research on the Entangled History of Humanitarianism and Human Rights

In my view, we should imagine a future where we have understood how to augment and not replace the human condition by leveraging technology. Data-driven benefits can certainly help reduce inequality. This will require a new research agenda where scientists and technology companies work to solve problems that apply to a wider range of social groups and that include the 17 global goals we have vowed to achieve by To serve humanitarian practitioners, the current deep learning revolution should pay increased attention to methodologies that can work in data-scarce environments, that can learn quickly with few examples and in unknown crisis scenarios, and that are able to work with incomplete or missing data eg.

Before , technology should allow us to know everything from everyone to ensure no one is left behind. For example, there will be nanosatellites imaging every corner of the earth allowing us to generate almost immediate insights into humanitarian crises. Progress will just depend on our actions and political will. What I also foresee is a not too distant future where data and AI can be used to empower citizens and affected communities in humanitarian crises.

The digital revolution can help refugees protect their rights and their identities and even create jobs. Imagine a future where refugees could be granted digital asylum in other countries for which they can do digital work and contribute to the growth of that economy. From both public and private sector perspectives, we are living a unique moment in history with regards to shaping how algorithms and AI will impact society.

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Journal of Humanitarian Affairs - Manchester University Press

The boundaries between these chronological periods are not fixed, with several chapters highlighting, for example, how ideas and practices spanned the interwar and Cold War years. Although the foundation of the International Committee of the Red Cross ICRC in arguably marked the arrival of international humanitarianism, Matthias Schulz uses new archival evidence to demonstrate that the ICRC did not automatically herald a new era of internationalist cooperation between states.

However, the differences and tensions between American and British Quaker interpretations of patriotism, pacifism, and professionalism during the First World War highlight how transnational ideals may be refracted in different national contexts, even within the same religious group. Reeves demonstrates the problems associated with the Western humanitarian desire to be at the forefront of relief work, which in this case was rooted in the imperialistic paternalism the ARC felt towards their Chinese counterparts.


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Today, however, many Asian nations have moved from aid-beneficiaries, to aid-providers. The participation of local actors in development projects has become key to the strategy of many western organisations. There's a problem loading this menu right now. Learn more about Amazon Prime. Get fast, free delivery with Amazon Prime. Back to top. Get to Know Us. Amazon Payment Products.

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Essays in Humanitarian Action

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