Artificial Intelligence could forecast wars and save both lives and money

  • Date

    Mon 15 Oct 18

Artificial Intelligence could hold the key to accurately predicting conflict - a move which would save both lives and money, according to academics who are calling for the United Nations to invest in a global system for promoting peace.

Although major wars are decreasing, civil conflicts and terrorist attacks are on the increase - since 2011, up to 100,000 people a year have been killed in conflicts worldwide.

The monetary costs of these conflicts are huge – the UN spends billions on humanitarian aid, and war-torn countries suffer an economic downturn, which can last for years.

Currently Governments have little warning of impending crises, but as Professor Kristian Gleditsch, from our Department of Government, explained, Artificial Intelligence is poised to make a difference.

Writing in Nature, Professor Gleditsch, and his co-authors, Weisi Guo from the University of Warwick and Alun Wilson, Chief Executive of the Alun Turing Institute in London, call on the UN to make the investment necessary to make it a reality.

“Our current systems for predicting conflict are just not sophisticated enough. Future systems need to do more than make predictions, they must offer explanations for violence and strategies for preventing it.

“This will be difficult because conflict is dynamic and multi-dimensional, but it is possible if we develop new machine-learning techniques, if we had more information about the wider causes of conflicts and their resolution and if we had theoretical models that better reflect the complexity of social interactions and human decision-making.

“We feel an international consortium should be set up, involving academic institutions, governments and international organisations, to take this work forward.

“Establishing this platform would cost tens of millions of dollars, a fraction of the billions that the world pays to cope with conflict,” he said.

Work has already started on agreeing the common data and modelling infrastructure needed to make the platform work.

Professor Gleditsch will be presenting a lecture entitled ‘An ever more violent world’ at our Colchester Campus on Tuesday 16 October. This is first lecture since he became Regius Professor of Political Science – an honour bestowed by the Queen.