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AI is a Toddler – How will it grow up?

AI is a Toddler – How will it grow up?

Insights & Perspectives
Chris Runde and panelists at the Airport Planning, Design and Construction Symposium 2024 in Salt Lake City

By Chris Runde

Toddlers are captivating, energetic, and often adorable. And they are also clumsy and are known to break things.

Artificial intelligence in aviation seems to be at that age in its development. Great fun, endlessly stimulating, but not to be trusted on its own.

I recently moderated a workshop session on AI’s impact on airport design and planning with aviation and technology leaders at the Airport Planning, Design and Construction Symposium in Salt Lake City. More than 1,700 attendees joined the Airport Consultants Council (ACC) and American Association of Airport Executives Purdue Chapter  to discuss the future of airports.

I was joined by experts from Microsoft, Denver International Airport - City & County of Denver Dept of Aviation, Perkins&Will, and Ardurra to explore opportunities for #AI in #aviation planning and design.

It’s such a big and fascinating topic that we only scratched the surface, but here are some of the highlights and takeaways:

  • Brendan Dillon, C.M., Director of Digital Facilities & Infrastructure at Denver International Airport, explained that since AI is growing and developing so quickly, Denver is laying down guidelines for staff, rather than hard policies around it. Some of the examples were no use of generative AI to exploit policies or procedures, no use of sensitive or confidential information, a need for formal approval of any AI-generated communications for the public, and documenting all uses of AI in the course of work. This “parenting” approach seems eminently sensible for our toddler.

  • AI relies on data that is accurate and consistent. Nick Cameron, Digital Practice Director at Perkins&Will, shared the automation and scripting his architecture experts are already using to advance the quality and speed of design. Nick is spearheading a naming initiative that applies common nomenclature and categorization to apply enterprise analysis, which will allow us to look at AI applications across the next few years as noted in his chart below:

Value from AI chart
  • AI has been here for a while. It's just reaching people in new ways. Eve Machol, Director of Transportation Solutions at Microsoft, shared the chart below showing AI's start in the 1950s and its evolution to Generative AI in 2021.

History of AI infographic
  • Current use cases for AI in aviation are expanding. Peter Maiman, AICP, Planning Manager at Ardurra, shared current examples including quality control, data curation, administrative (note taking), and preliminary engineering reports. Eve also shared the list below of airport AI use cases from a recent airport RFP that show AI across all areas of the airport:

Example of AI in an RFP

What I’m Listening To: The Age of AI is Here

Peter H. Diamandis is a world-renowned futurist, author, and entrepreneur. I’ve followed Peter for years and listened to his recent Moonshot podcast with Catherine Wood at ARK Investment Management LLC regarding emerging technology. They agreed that the time of AI is here with exponential impact on the horizon (and nearer than most think). Peter noted that the improved user interface for AI is the major reason for its resurgence over the last 18 months. The addition of intuitive natural language processing and open access has democratized AI; and the genie isn't going back in the bottle.

What I’m Reading: Age of AI in Travel

Returning to the topic of AI in transportation, @Teague recently released its report on Future Mobility: Travel in the Age of Age of AI. Looking over the next five years of travel, the report explores concepts including Hyper-personalized customer journeys and democratized connectivity. I found it easy to imagine these ideas coming to fruition sooner than we think.

What I’m Curious About: Who’s Controlling the Algorithm?

One of the hot topics at the symposium was ethics and equity around AI. Elon Musk’s recent lawsuit filed against OpenAI is a case in point. On the surface, it may appear to be simply corporate and financial posturing, but in fact it’s much more. Fortune aptly titled its coverage ‘The legal premise of Elon Musk’s OpenAI lawsuit is weak. But the questions it raises are not

Musk’s point is about the dangers of OpenAI receiving corporate funding that can influence how the AI operates. Like a Google search or Twitter feeds, the operating entity can (and has) placed filters and bans on what information is displayed.

Even when the algorithm managers expound good intentions, the manipulation of ideas and thoughts through AI is tricky. Global giants like Google are struggling as shown by the recent news that Google ‘paused’ their AI image generator, Gemini, because the system was creating flawed and biased imagery.

If people can no longer trust what they see — or what they read — to be true and accurate, where will that leave us as people, companies, and society as a whole? Our AI toddler has a long way to go before it can run, and in the right direction.

Chris Runde is our global Director, Corporate Strategy + Innovation. This is an edited version of his monthly LinkedIn newsletter, Future Builders.

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