I hope life has been treating you well. We have been hard hit during the COVID crisis and it undeniably has affected our economy and infrastructure in a way that has devastated so many lives and families. But most importantly, I believe that we will make it through this.
I have been through (and still) some difficult times during the last half decade or so. Our new normal probably won't be too different from our previous normal, and while doctors and scientists in the medical field are hard at work racing to find vaccines, we should keep it in our best interest to do the same in our field of specialty and work together to find solutions.
The prime question I want to share with everyone is, What is the role of Artificial Intelligence in our industry? I think this question can be asked no matter what study or focus a student or professional chooses and it is a question that is going to be persistent as we advance through this new age.
So, what is artificial intelligence? "Artificial intelligence (AI) is [a] wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence…", as stated by BUILT-IN. If King Arthur's sword, Excalibur, could only be wielded by him, the rightful heir of Britain, perhaps every specialty has its own Excalibur too. There is no doubt that this advancement is a highly dynamic and versatile development.
Our infrastructure has been interesting to observe. We have an overflow of issues rushing towards us and it can leave many people overwhelmed and feeling like we have to be engaged and engrossed in something other than ourselves. It is a fairly rigid and forceful system that does not give much leeway to the ever-changing pace of our natural environment.
Perhaps the best way to move forward is to focus on just ourselves because our country is based on what diversity and inclusion is. It is an existing foundation that has always been there since the founding of this country and even yet, a system that has already been figured out by nature that we have yet to understand and work with. As stated by Janine M. Benyus, "The more our world looks and functions like this natural world, the more likely we are to be accepted on this home that is ours, but not ours alone."
After a team meeting last week and reading about Roadbotics, I was reminded of the question that I had a few years back. What is the role of AI in our industry? This seems like a nearly impossible discussion to have where its head has reared but no tail in sight, but this gives me hope with unemployment rates so high. It gives me hope because this means there is work and maybe the best way to find answers is to hack through the thick and thin of weeds to find a solution that could be meaningful for everyone.
I was interested in the idea of autonomous vehicles and how it may interact with our existing traffic systems a few years back. During the early periods of my career, I was mostly experienced in Roadway Engineering although I have also done work in Traffic Engineering too as a Transportation Technician. I was reminded of this concept that I had after reading about Roadbotics, a company located in Pittsburgh that uses smartphones and AI to monitor and maintain infrastructure assets by collecting, storing, and analyzing road data.
Four main items that were brought to light by our ASCE team during these brief conversations were:
All of this is great on the production side, but I feel like we also need to be able to pace ourselves with respect to the development of technology in an attempt to bring about work life harmony, because that is what life and our work is about, people.
The main questions that I want to consider discussing are:
I am asking these questions because I am interested in witnessing a harmonious relationship between the marriage of nature, technology, and people. I am looking forward to seeing what the future has in store and I hope you will too.
Thanks for starting this discussion. I would add one more question for discussion.
What are the ethical considerations when designing systems with AI components? How should they be addressed?
See "AddressingEthical Dilemmas in AI: Listening to Engineers"