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UN Hired AI Company to Untangle Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

AI Company to Untangle Israeli-Palestinian Crisis
The UN has hired an AI company, CulturePulse, to untangle the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Credit: Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Over the years, the use of AI in this domain has broadened, helping in the enhancement of logistics, training, and various facets of peacekeeping operations.

The use of artificial intelligence in conflict situations dates back to at least 1996, when machine learning was first employed to anticipate potential conflict zones.

Developing artificial intelligence models usually doesn’t require encountering an armed soldier ordering your driver to exit the vehicle while aiming a gun at you. However, the AI system being created by F. LeRon Shults and Justin Lane, founders of CulturePulse, for the United Nations, is far from ordinary.

“I got pulled over by the [Israeli] military, by a guy holding [a military rifle] because we had a Palestinian taxi driver who drove past a line he wasn’t supposed to,” Shults tells WIRED. “So that was an adventure.”

In September, Shults and Lane were in the West Bank just a few weeks before the conflict erupted on October 7th, when Hamas launched an attack on Israel. This event triggered one of the most severe periods of violence in the region in the past fifty years.

Both Shults and Lane, who are Americans currently residing in Europe, were present on the ground as part of their contract with the United Nations. Their mission, initiated in August, aims to create a groundbreaking AI model intended to assist in analyzing potential solutions to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, according to WIRED.

“The model is not designed to resolve the situation”

Shults and Lane understand that suggesting AI could “solve the crisis” between Israelis and Palestinians may lead to skepticism and even strong opposition, particularly in light of the distressing images emerging from Gaza every day. Therefore, they want to make it clear that this is not their intention.

“Quite frankly, if I were to phrase it that way, I’d roll my eyes too,” Shults says. “The key is that the model is not designed to resolve the situation; it’s to understand, analyze, and get insights into implementing policies and communication strategies.”

The conflict in this region has been ongoing for many centuries, and it is extremely intricate. The current crisis has made the situation even more challenging. Numerous attempts to find a political solution have proven unsuccessful, as reported by WIRED.

Resolving this crisis will likely require not only the cooperation of the two main parties involved but also support from the wider international community. Given these complexities, it’s not feasible for an AI system to generate a ready-made solution. CulturePulse’s goal, instead, is to identify the root causes of the conflict.

Using an AI system to explore potential solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis

“We know that you can’t solve a problem this complex with a single AI system,” Lane tells WIRED. “That’s not ever going to be feasible in my opinion. What is feasible is using an intelligent AI system—using a digital twin of a conflict—to explore the potential solutions that are there.”

The digital twin Lane is referring to is CulturePulse’s advanced AI model, which they are presently developing for the UN. This model aims to eventually generate a virtual representation of each of the fifteen million individuals residing in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

These virtual individuals will be equipped with characteristics such as demographics, religious beliefs, and ethical values mirroring those of their real-world counterparts, as explained by Shults and Lane.

Altogether, CulturePulse’s model can consider more than eighty different categories for each “agent.” These categories include attributes such as anger, anxiety, personality, morality, family, friends, finances, inclusivity, racism, and hate speech, as reported by WIRED.

“These models are entire artificial societies, with thousands or millions of simulated adaptive artificially intelligent agents…networked with each other, and they’re designed in a way that is more psychologically realistic and more sociologically realistic,” Shults says. “Basically you have a laboratory, an artificial laboratory, that you can play with on your PC in ways that you could never do ethically, certainly, in the real world.”

This system will enable the UN to observe how the virtual society responds to alterations in factors such as economic well-being, increased security measures, shifting political dynamics, and various other variables. The model forecasts outcomes with a clinical accuracy rate of over 95 percent correlation to real-world results, according to Shults and Lane.

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