In this final summary of the recent annual forum of the National Emergency Management Association held in Memphis, Tennessee in October, I found most compelling the panel discussion entitled “Combating Contested Information During Disaster Response and Recovery” addressed the emerging threat of what is called “MDM”: meaning Misinformation, Dis-information, and Mal-information.
A follow- up to my recent post (“A Thought about Taking the AI Plunge”) on the risk/reward associated embracing artificial intelligence comes from the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) October 2023 forum panel discussion on this subject.
The rising angst over the apparent advance in artificial intelligence, or AI, called to mind the limerick (“Daisy…” etc.) that HAL, the state-of-the-art computer in the film “2001, A Space Odyssey” was reduced to repeating when HAL’S human soul mate (Dave) attempted to unplug him/it (?). HAL survived, but it did not go well for “Dave”.
Shortly after the audacious 2008 Mumbai, India terrorist attack which took 160 lives, a Seattle Police Department Assistant Chief mused that a similarly trained team could paralyze a city like Seattle for a “considerable” time. Mumbai illustrated how a team of well-trained bad actors could exact considerable damage.
The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) biannual gatherings are opportunities for information-sharing and straightforward discussions with government and private sector leaders. State (and territorial) emergency management directors occupy unique roles. Responsible to the governor or a senior official – in Washington State it’s The Adjutant General (TAG) – they not only deal with issues affecting their respective jurisdictions (while balancing the political inclinations of elected officials), but aided by Association staff must be alert to developments on the national front that could impact local and state government.
Educators and senior emergency management officials have pondered what would motivate a person to aspire to a career in emergency management. How do we attract bright young students while providing continuing education and growth opportunities for those already immersed in emergency management roles? This is not just a problem of the moment how can emergency management survive, and thrive, in the long term?
My favorite English professor at Western Washington, Arthur Hicks, taught Shakespeare. He administered daily, graded 10-minute snap exams on some aspect of the previous day’s reading – if you did well, he would write on your paper “so far, good…but” and he would then point out additional insights (channeling Shakespeare, I presume) the student might have incorporated into the exam response. When I asked why he did that, he said there was always something more to learn, something more to uncover – “so far, good” was thus an exhortation to dig deeper, become even more proficient.
As our nation lurches into a worrisome and contentious period in our history, I’ll share some less-than-earth-shaking thoughts I have had recently (if you open your window, you may hear me shouting).
Education = National Security By Jim Mullen Emergency Management Once Removed As a student financial aid director at a struggling private college in Illinois in the early 1970s, I had the responsibility of ensuring that students could finance their college educations without incurring loan obligations that would inhibit their personal and professional futures while assuring that the institution itself survived. Angst over student loan debt is not a new development. During the Cold War, improved access to higher education for all Americans became a national security issue. Soviet Union successes (launching “Sputnik” in 1957, Gagarin’s sub-orbital flight in 1961) persuaded [...]