Being Forced to “Safely” Fight Wildfires With Dubious Systems' Artificial vs. Human "Intelligence"?
Restating the post title beyond the limited Wix title allowance: Are We Being Forced to “Safely” Fight Wildfires With Some Dubious Systems' Faux "Artificial Intelligence" vs. Human Intelligence?
Douglas Fir and contributing authors
Views expressed to "the public at large” and "of public concern"
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Abbreviations used: Wildland Firefighters (WFs) - Firefighters (FFs).
All emphasis is added unless otherwise noted.
Disturbing and graphic imagery contained herein
Proceed at your own risk
Always learning and never able
to come to the knowledge of the truth
2 Timothy 3:7 (NKJV)
We are technologically advancing
and mentally retreating.
Figure 1. Artificial Intelligence images Source: (top left) UTL (bottom left) Scott Sleek (bottom right) Formica AI
For you FFs and WFs and Supervisors, this AI subject is coming whether you want it or not. You basically have little to no choice. This is naturally a very complicated subject area, and so some readers may find this post a bit confusing, hard to comprehend and follow. Initially, slowly and carefully scanning, noting some of the subjects detailed and discussed may be helpful.
Consider now some quotes from "How Machine Learning Is Transforming Psychological Science" by Scott Sleek (2023) from the Association for Psychological Science.
“The truth is, human behavior is very complex,” Griffiths said, “and the more data we get, the more we can actually identify systematic variables that are influencing that complexity.”
"The “black box” - Among psychologists’ other concerns about machine-learning techniques are the so-called “black box” results they produce; the algorithms can predict an outcome but do not provide the causal or explanation or information that traditional methods generate
The paradox of defining the metaverse is that in order for it to be the future,
you have to define away the present.
it is the layer between you and reality
The somewhat bizarre Artificial Intelligence (AI), Metaverse, Machine Learning, Autonomous Decision-making, and related statements above are from legitimate Government Agencies, AI companies, entities, researchers, and their respective articles, blogs, research papers, etc. to provide and set the stage for this troubling subject. This is being foisted upon the wildland fire community without any choice. It's troubling and unnerving that the Wildland Fire Agencies are passing this Artificial Intelligence blather off as superior to human intelligence in many cases. Some minor editing will be utilized to combine sentences and paragraphs to condense overall post length and space. Curiously, this HubSpot email showed up today (June 20, 2013) in this author's email inbox autonomously. Or was it really autonomous because it was never formally requested?
Figure 1a. Unrequested HubSpot Invitation (Snippet) Source: HubSpot
And here is a Biblical point of view from Got Questions. Your Questions. Biblical Answers: "Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a phrase referring to a program or computer system that thinks, reasons, and learns in the same way as a human being. ... The concept of advanced artificial intelligence is related to the idea of a technological singularity, the point at which manmade creations overtake humans in terms of reasoning ability, problem-solving, and self-development. Despite hopes and fears to the contrary, there is no reason to think that true artificial intelligence is possible, let alone actual. ... But for AI to be legitimately as smart as or smarter than people, a single program would need to excel in all of those things at once. ... Key to understanding the idea of artificial intelligence is carefully defining terms such as intelligence; in popular depictions of AI, more common terms are variations of smart or smarter. Computers often appear to be intelligent, when in fact they are performing extremely low-level thinking extremely quickly. They aren’t actually smart; they are just capable of doing certain tasks in less time than people can. ... Further, even the most advanced computer still pits human intelligence against human intelligence. On one side is a single person; on the other is a machine mechanically drawing on the collective intelligence of many people. ... The phrase technological singularity specifically refers to that theoretical moment when artificial intelligence reaches a tipping point, after which it self-improves without human input and beyond human ability. ... The concept of technological singularity also assumes that processing power will advance forever. This is contrary to what we know about the natural laws of the universe. The rate of growth in computing technology eventually runs into the limits of physics; scientists and computer experts agree there is a “hard limit” to how fast certain technologies can operate. Since the complexity required to simulate a human mind is so far beyond even theoretical designs, there is no objective reason to say that true artificial intelligence can exist, let alone that it will exist. ... On a more abstract level, math and logic also strongly suggest that AI can never replace the human mind. Concepts such as Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem strongly suggest that a system can never become more complex or more capable than its originator. To make an AI better than a human brain, we’d need to fully understand and then surpass ourselves, which is logically contradictory. ...
Is artificial intelligence (AI) biblically possible? Got Questions
"Gödel’s incompleteness theorems are among the most important results in modern logic. These discoveries revolutionized the understanding of mathematics and logic, and had dramatic implications for the philosophy of mathematics. There have also been attempts to apply them in other fields of philosophy, but the legitimacy of many such applications is much more controversial."
Figure 2. Kurt Gödel as a student in Vienna Source: Quanta
Figure 2a. AI image Source: Quanta
How Gödel’s Proof Works. "His incompleteness theorems destroyed the search for a mathematical theory of everything. Nearly a century later, we’re still coming to grips with the consequences. Quanta Magazine
So Gödel has created a proof by contradiction: If a set of axioms could prove its own consistency, then we would be able to prove G. But we can’t. Therefore, no set of axioms can prove its own consistency.
Gödel’s proof killed the search for a consistent, complete mathematical system. The meaning of incompleteness “has not been fully fathomed,” Nagel and Newman wrote in 1958. It remains true today."
Paradoxically, here is a very controversial and very disturbing AI article that strongly contradicts the findings in Gödel’s article above. The original TechCrunch+ author Coldewey strongly warns of its frightening potential. And this author will redouble that warning with intensity. You will really need to consider whether you want to go down that path. You are seriously ON YOUR OWN!
A terrifying AI-generated woman is lurking in the abyss of latent space Devin Coldewey - TechCrunch+ (Sept. 13, 2022)
Warning: Disturbing imagery follows. You are on your own. If you want to go there, this author denies all responsibility!
“There’s a ghost in the machine. Machine learning, that is."
"We are all regularly amazed by AI’s capabilities in writing and creation, but who knew it had such a capacity for instilling horror? A chilling discovery by an AI researcher finds that the 'latent space' comprising a deep learning model’s memory is haunted …”
“But is this AI model truly haunted, or is [it] just a random confluence of images that happens to come up in various strange technical circumstances? Surely it must be the latter unless you believe spirits can inhabit data structures, but it’s more than a simple creepy image — it’s an indication that what passes for a brain in an AI is deeper and creepier than we might otherwise have imagined."
"The article discuss creating and then 'weighting' and also 'splitting' positive and negative prompts. Negative prompts which causes the model to work away from that concept as actively as it can."
“The Minus world is far less predictable, because no one knows how the data is actually organized in what one might anthropomorphize as the ‘mind’ or memory of the AI, known as latent space. The latent space is kind of like you’re exploring a map of different concepts in the AI. A prompt is like an arrow that tells you how far to walk in this concept map and in which direction,' Supercomposite told me. [Supercomposite is the moniker used by the artist and musician that 'created' the creepy image.]
"Here’s a helpful rendering of a much, much simpler latent space in an old Google translation model working on a single sentence in multiple languages:"
Figure 2b. The latent space of a system like DALL-E is orders of magnitude larger and more complex, but you get the general idea. If each dot here was a million spaces like this one it’s probably a bit more accurate. Source: Google, Coldewey
“So if you prompt the AI for an image of ‘a face,’ you’ll end up somewhere in the middle of the region that has all the of images of faces and get an image of a kind of unremarkable average face,' she said. With a more specific prompt, you’ll find yourself among the frowning faces, or faces in profile, and so on. '
"But with negatively weighted prompt, you do the opposite: You run as far away from that concept as possible.'”With a more specific prompt, you’ll find yourself among the frowning faces, or faces in profile, and so on. “But with negatively weighted prompt, you do the opposite: You run as far away from that concept as possible.”
"But what’s the opposite of 'face'? Is it the feet? Is it the back of the head? Something faceless, like a pencil? While we can argue it amongst ourselves, in a machine learning model it was decided during the process of training, meaning however visual and linguistic concepts got encoded into its memory, they can be navigated consistently — even if they may be somewhat arbitrary."
"We saw a related concept in a recent AI phenomenon that went viral because one model seemed to reliably associate some nonsense words with birds and insects. But it wasn’t that DALL-E had a 'secret language' in which 'Apoploe vesrreaitais' means birds — it’s just that the nonsense prompt basically had it throwing a dart at a map of its mind and drawing whatever it lands nearby, in this case birds because the first word is kind of similar to some scientific names. So the arrow just pointed generally in that direction on the map.'" [end of Coldewey article]
Figure 2c. the price of apathy quote Source: Plato, PHIL Rhythm, FB
Most Terrifying Words
‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”
This post initially concerns the very beginning articles and stories about the June 2013 YH Fire and GMHS debacle and some select historical wildfire fatalities. And the almost immediate clarion call for tracking devices because of the human factors and leadership failures in every one to properly "investigate" the causal factors and to provide true lessons learned based on those. And so it is well established according to the historical tried-and-true Wildland Firefighting Orders (Fire Orders) number seven (7) - it is written - that all FFs and WFs engaged in wildland fires are required to “Maintain prompt communications with your forces, your supervisor, and adjoining forces.”
However, the GMHS did things the alleged “Prescott Way.” And former PFD employees that '"filled-in" on the GMHS to replace someone, alleged that Supt. Eric Marsh “allowed” only three to four (3-4) GMHS to monitor and talk on the Command, Tactical (TAC), and Air-To-Ground frequencies. In addition, Marsh required them to use only their discreet Crew Net channel and no one but him was "allowed" to reveal their location or intentions, i.e. "going dark". And so that was the notable communications problem - failure to follow Fire Order 7 - with the GMHS on June 30, 2013. However, the SAIT-SAIR, in their effort to extricate Marsh from his well-known repeated bad decisions with good outcomes (Figure 3.) stated in their foregone conclusion: "The Team found no indication of negligence, reckless actions or violations of policy or protocol" giving lie to the predetermined assertion that they did everything right. Pay close attention to their "could have, should have, would have been, " False Cause Fallacy inferences feckless attempts justifying their no blame, no fault stance.
This post will then consider the ongoing dialogue regarding the supposed need for “tracking devices” and the more general AI research on wildland firefighting. And finally, selective AI research in general is chosen due to the almost unlimited amounts of information germane to our AI subject. Furthermore, this author continued to the 'point of saturation' to avoid redundancy where further data collection and/or analysis are unnecessary.
"The collective wisdom holds that to lessen such tragedies, sage counsel from numerous authors, researchers, and practitioners, primarily comprised of experienced warriors from the aviation, military, and general firefighting disciplines, must be followed. Their critical and combined guidance underscores the following:
• the significance of continued and repetitive realistic training;
• avoiding feckless safety exhortations, (e.g., “Safety First,” and “Stay Safe”);
• vigilant assessments by accurate and timely interpretations of warning signs;
• ample and thoughtful mitigation including debating “what ifs”;
• refraining from high-risk and little-to no-gain engagements; and
• cautious discernment and professional implementation.} It Could Not Be Seen Because It Could Not Be Believed on June 30, 2013 (AHFE 2018)
Would this highly vaunted, dubious AI considered to be "vigilant assessments by accurate and timely interpretations of warning signs" dutifully nullify this Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR) poster, for the GMHS taking a whopping 52 minutes to "discuss our options" as they finally decide too late and fatally fail?
The assertively telling quote at the bottom of the well-known Decisions and Outcomes matrix depicted in Figure 3. is from a senior NM HS Supt. at the October. 2013, YH Fire and GMHS Fatality Site Visit, Integration Phase portion when participants can reflect jointly upon their conclusions, experiences, lessons learned, take-aways, etc. Everyone that has ever worked for or with Marsh, have their own harrowing GMHS "stories."
Figure 3. Decisions and Outcomes matrix Source: YHFR
"Yarnell Fire lead investigator talks about the report and tracking firefighters" Wildfire Today (November 30, 2013) The person who led the 54-person team that investigated the June 30 deaths of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots talked to a reporter for the Florida Current about the results of their investigation and how they track firefighters in his agency. Previously, Florida State Forester Jim Karels’ team wrote in their report about the Yarnell Hill Fire which was released in September:
The judgments and decisions of the incident management organizations managing this fire were reasonable. Firefighters performed within their scope of duty, as defined by their respective organizations. The Team found no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol.
The Yarnell Hill Fire report also said:
… [it] does not identify causes in the traditional sense of pointing out errors, mistakes, and violations…
Many of us criticized the report for whitewashing the tragedy and failing firefighters who deserve to increase their knowledge of how to avoid similar disasters in the future. A lessons learned opportunity was missed.
Wildfire Today (Nov. 30, 2013)
Continuing with the above November 2013 Wildfire Today article: "It will be interesting to see if the report about the fire that is being written by the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health [link] provides better information about what happened, why, and how to avoid similar deaths. This is an excerpt from the article in the Florida Current: Karels, though, said a second section of the report asks questions about the decision-making process that will help develop lessons to be learned. He said the fact that all 19 firefighters died together while making decisions on their own and separately made the investigation different from other investigations. “It would be real easy to say, ‘This is exactly what happened and these are why decisions were made and this is something to blame,'” Karels said. “But all 19 are gone. So we reconstructed an event based on the best knowledge we had.” He said lessons learned from the fire include the need for more prescribed burning and mitigation nationwide to reduce the potential for deadly wildfires. In the interview Mr. Karels also talked about tracking the location of firefighters, since no one on the Yarnell Hill Fire knew where the [GMHS] were at the time of the fatal entrapment or previously that they were hiking through unburned vegetation near the fire which changed direction and burned over their location due to a passing thunderstorm.
[Really? No one? The GMHS knew exactly where they were the whole time! - It was the firing operations that were adversely influenced and exponentially increased by a clearly visible and clearly noted "passing thunderstorm" from the North, seen by everyone that would be one of the predetermined causes.]
He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes;
He who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.
Continuing with the above November 2013 Wildfire Today article: "The SAIT Team Leader continues: 'Florida had to figure out the lessons from its own wildfire deaths in 2011 when two firefighters in Hamilton County were killed while battling a blaze. He said [the] 'Blue Ribbon Fire' led to recommendations on improving communication, asset tracking and providing enough helicopters to battle fires. [Agriculture Commissioner Adam] Putnam is requesting $5 million for new vehicles in fiscal year 2014-15 in addition to $4 million received last year for upgrading technology and equipment … The Hamilton County fire and the Arizona fire both led to recommendations to improve the tracking of firefighters and equipment during a rapidly expanding fire, Karels said. After the 2011 fire, Florida began installing a tracking system on computers in supervisory vehicles that map firefighters and machinery with the locations of the fire and terrain," [Ironically, according to the June 2011 (p. 41) "official" report, the Florida Forestry Division already had tracking devices on their tractor plows: Findings (Based on LCES): "Asset Tracker System was also employed to monitor resource locations by IC-2." [So then, the question is why did they have to "recommend" having them installed when they already had them? One notable effort they did take was utilizing the Rules of Engagement to properly examine the tragedy.]
"Explanation of Asset Tracker System
"The Florida Division of Forestry contracted for the development and installation of an Asset Tracking System in 2009. The Asset Tracking System is a platform where the GPS location of suppression equipment is transmitted via radio from the suppression equipment to a supervisor’s radio in their vehicle, then to a laptop computer. This data is then displayed on the computer as part of a map and the times, locations, speed and direction of travel are saved as a data file. During this incident the data of the suppression equipment was not gathered until IC-2 arrived at approximately 1550 hours, whose vehicle is equipped with a receiver and laptop computer. Gaps in the data stream can occur when the GPS in the suppression equipment loses contact with satellites or radio issues stop the transfer of data from the suppression unit to the supervisor’s radio.
"The accuracy of the location information is dependent on the strength of the GPS signal which can be affected by clouds, smoke, canopy, or other obstructions. The accuracy of the information is generally 10 - 30 feet. This level of accuracy can lead to clusters of points with some distance between them even for equipment that is stationary. Asset Tracking begins with the operator starting the vehicle which applies vehicle power in both cases to either the transmitting or receiving tracking equipment. On the transmitting side the GPS receiver begins to acquire satellites. Transmitting begins after 50 seconds and continues on a 10 second interval thereafter until the vehicle’s ignition is turned off. Satellite lock can be immediate or minutes depending on the interval between last time used and receiver obstructions. Regardless of satellite lock data transmission begins after the application of power. On the receiving side, power from the vehicle’s ignition is applied to the Receiver, and the Analog to Digital converter 'RTD.' Both become active immediately. Receive range is limited to line of site. Field testing has shown typically a two-mile radius. From the laptop the receive session begins with the user launching Active Asset Server, selecting the RTD port and launching ArcGIS Explorer. A receive session can be started or stopped by the opening or closing of the port the RTD is connected to and all data is stored within each laptop for After Action review. Unlocked Satellite data in the form of 0.0 coordinates are received, stored in the database, but filtered from viewing."
"Where do we go from here?
We have written previously about how the inability of fire supervisors to always be situationally aware of the location of firefighters has contributed to at least 24 deaths in recent years — 19 on the Yarnell Hill Fire and 5 on the Esperanza fire. On the 2006 Esperanza Fire in southern California, Branch II and the Captain of Engine 57 had an understanding that the Engine crew would not remain at the Octagon house, where they eventually died (see page 9 of the USDA OIG report). The crew was supposed to go to an area identified as a safety zone and not try to defend the house, according to information provided by Branch II. For some reason the crew decided to defend the house, setting up hose lays and a portable pump. The fire entrapped them at that location, killing all five members of the crew. [Even after attending a USFS Staff Ride, this author felt that his was a very complicated, very strange fire fatality.]
If Branch II, an Operations Section Chief, or a Safety Officer had access to real time information about the location of their resources on the fire, it is likely that the engine crew would have been directed to go to the safety zone as instructed earlier by Branch II.
Specifically, regarding the YH Fire: "The person that was supervising the 19 firefighters that died on the Yarnell Hill Fire was the Operations Section Chief. In the report on page 22, he tells the crew, [GMHS], to “hunker and be safe”, which usually means find a nearby safe spot and stay there. On page 27 Operations tells the airborne Aerial Supervision Module about the crew, “They’re in a good place. They’re safe….” The Blue Ridge Hotshots thought [GMHS] was walking north to a ranch house safety zone north of their location. OPS thought the crew was safely in the black. He did not know the 19 firefighters were walking in the unburned area toward a ranch south of their location. [Among other things, a clear violation of Fire Order No. 7 and disregarding many of the Watch Out Situations!]
If Ops or a Safety Officer with access to the location of all fire resources had known the crew’s location as they first began their fatal trek, it is likely
the entrapment could have been prevented.
Consider now some of the many ASF YCSO Dropbox DZ images revealing numerous GMHS hand-held radios. CAUTION: These graphic images may be disturbing to some viewers.
Figure 3a. AZ State Forestry and SAIT photos of GMHS radios Source: ASF
"Evidence Technician Katie Waldock of the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) took these photos of the deployment site on July 3. The YCSO provided them to the (sic) Tony Petrilli, member of the [SAIT]."
"The Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety, as I envision it, would enable radios carried by firefighters and in their vehicles to transmit their location in real time which would then show up on a remote display (on anything from a cell phone or a 7″ tablet, up to a laptop computer) that would be monitored by a Safety Officer, Branch Director, Ops Chief, or Division Supervisor. The display would also show the real time location of the fire. Knowing either of these in real time would enhance the safety of firefighters. Knowing both is the Holy Grail. Cell phone-based location systems will not work on many fires due to incomplete coverage. What might work are temporary cell sites or dedicated repeaters on aircraft or mountain tops, or a geosynchronous satellite that is always overhead and could receive data from almost everywhere except in the deepest, steep canyons or heaviest tree canopy. ... If Congress and the American people were presented with this proposal, even though it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, they just might vote to save firefighters’ lives. Luddites who oppose technology and want everything to remain the same will never be in favor of this concept. I understand that, and recognize that everyone is entitled to their own opinion."
Canadian WF Rocksteady makes some worthy comments: Dec. 1, 2013, "Technology will not save lives. When poor decision making is made by i/c, OPS,, Divs or Hot shot sups, the end result is the same. The technology just pinpoints where to find the bodies…. Even if the GMHS were plotted to the inch where they were versuses (sic) where everyone thought they were, it was too late and too far back to safety…. Rocksteady says: Dec. 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm More smoke and mirrors to divert from the question…. 'What happened? Why? And Who? May be responsible'."
Experts: Yarnell fire report shows need for GPS - Real-time information on the location of crews and the location of the fire could have prevented the death of 19 firefighters FireRescue1 (Lexipol) (Sept 30, 2013) Prescott, Ariz. - From the triple-digit temperatures the day before to the gusty winds that kicked up in a matter of hours, nearly every detail leading up the June deaths of 19 Arizona firefighters has been painstakingly spelled out by investigators.
“A half truth is a whole lie.” ~ Yiddish Proverb
"Even though they say proper procedure was followed, the families of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and members of Congress have wasted no time in asking that lessons be learned from the deaths. [One has to seriously wonder whether or not these families really believe the "proper procedure" no-blame-no-fault blather and the blatant and nagging failure to find out the "why" of the YH Fire tragedy?]
The most dangerous untruths
are truths moderately distorted.
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
"The challenge now, experts say, is figuring out how to prevent another tragedy as the threat of wildfire shows no sign of diminishing in the nation's overgrown, drought-stricken forests and foothills. One way, they say, is to invest in GPS tracking technology for firefighters. 'Real-time information on the location of crews and the location of the fire, if those two things had been known, this accident could have been prevented,'" said Bill Gabbert, a retired WF, Fire Management Officer, and author."
"The results of a three-month investigation released Saturday outline a series of missteps by the crew and commanders who were fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire, but specific causes for the deaths are not included. Gabbert said such "milquetoast-type reports" are the result of federal legislation that opened the door to firefighters potentially being charged criminally for making mistakes while battling a blaze".
It's critically important that we learn from fires like this, Gabbert said. But with the guidelines for writing reports like this, you end up with things being soft-pedaled.
That makes it difficult, or impossible,
to learn lessons that can prevent fatalities.
"A year after the deadly Thirtymile Fire in [WA] state, Congress approved legislation in 2002 requiring an independent investigation whenever a U.S. Forest Service firefighter dies in an entrapment or burnover. In the Yarnell case, a team of local, state and federal fire experts conducted the investigation since the [GMHS] worked for the city of Prescott."
"[Former AZ Governor] Brewer, in a statement issued Saturday, said she hopes the findings can further the healing process and give guidance for firefighters in Arizona and around the nation." [And how is that possible with the blatant and nagging failure to find out the "why" of the YH Fire tragedy?]
Other than reviewing communication plans and tracking firefighting crews, experts say the lessons from the Yarnell Hill Fire will come only as firefighters and their commanders put themselves in the shoes of the Granite Mountain crew to understand what they were facing that day and how it played into their decision-making.
The investigation revealed more than a half-hour of radio silence that occurred just before the Hotshots were overwhelmed by flames. [This bogus claim was proven False in PFD Willis' July 23, 2013, GMHS DZ News Conference and elsewhere!]
It's not certain why the crew left what was believed to be a safe spot on a ridge that had previously burned and unknowingly walked to their deaths in a basin thick with dry brush. At the time they died, an airtanker was circling overhead, confused about their location. The command center thought the crew had decided to stay put in the blackened area. [This author alleges that the GMHS left their "safe spot" because of Marsh threatening Steed!]
Despite identifying numerous problems, the report found that proper procedure was followed in the worst firefighting tragedy since Sept. 11, 2001.
"Rather than assigning blame, wildfire investigations in the last decade since the Thirtymile Fire have evolved into studies of what has worked on the fire lines and what hasn't." [Telling the truth which they never do]
Experts say the review of the [YH] Fire should prompt [FFs] to ask themselves questions about how they would handle changes in weather or fire behavior and logistical challenges like radio traffic and miscommunication.
Consider this Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise article (Sept. 30, 2013) titled "Arizona firefighter probe shows GPS need": "One of the questions posed by the report gets to the heart of firefighting culture, said Dick Mangan, a retired [USFS] safety official and consultant. ... 'What would you do if you were told to do nothing?' That's really key," he said. "All wildland firefighters — for that matter all firefighters, all police officers, EMTs, ambulance drivers — we're all driven to do good and sometimes your ambition to do good, or what you think is good, overrides your training and experience and puts you in a very dangerous situation."
"While the motivation of the Hotshots to leave the blackened area are unclear, investigators surmise that the crew may have been trying to reposition themselves so they could re-engage in the firefighting effort.
By this point, the fire had reached Yarnell and all other crews were helping with structure protection and evacuations. The fire was changing direction and surging in intensity and speed as smoked filled the air and ash rained down." [In reality, it was actually the result of up to three rogue firing operations, ( i.e. "Friendly Fire") in the Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor areas, eventually fueled by the visible outflow winds]
"Andy Stahl, executive director of [USFS] Employees for Environmental Ethics, said it was the vulnerability of Yarnell that resulted in the firefighters putting their lives on the line. ... There should have been [an earlier] trigger point ... There's this conceit that somehow with our technology and air power we can conquer an energetic force that's on par with hydrogen bombs. It's just not true. It's a lie, and these guys paid for that lie with their lives."
"Stahl said the first lesson involves the ability to better recognize whether firefighting efforts are making a difference. Had that question been asked early and often, he said the outcome may have been different. The firefighters from start to finish weren't making any progress, and I'm not talking about just the [GMHS]," Stahl said. "No matter what they were throwing at this thing, they were not changing the outcome."
What is certain, the experts say, is that firefighters and commanders will be picking apart the investigation and reading between the lines of the report as they search for lessons from the [GMHS]. ... This is going to be looked at very hard for many years to come,
The Tragedy at Yarnell Hill: Human & Technological Factors in Wildland Firefighting Moin "Brown Elk" Rahman ... "As painful as the loss of the Granite Mountain Hotshots was, it behooves us, the scientific research community, to advance our understanding of fire science and fire fighter human factors to prevent such future tragedies. ... posing the following research questions and finding answers may close the gap in our current knowledge on wildland firefighting. Thus enhancing risk assessment, situation awareness and decision making of firefighters and their commanders, supplemented with advances in communication, sensing and computing technologies that truly deliver utility, usability and safety to the crew on the fireground. Computational modeling of fire fighting by treating it as a physical & socio-technical complex systems. This complex system will consist of various heterogeneous agents (physical and human) -- fuel source (for the fire), heat intensity, oxygen levels, wind patterns and fire fighters' characteristics (knowledge, skills, abilities, training, physical fitness, cognitive readiness, experience -- i.e., capabilities & limitations). Furthermore, the human / organizational (socio-technical) element will encompass operational strategies and tactics (protocols), equipment and machines. Thus these various agents produce their own signals and interact with other agents at the boundaries (a.k.a., signal-boundaries of a "dynamic generated systems" in complexity and chaos theory). This modeling may enable the commander and his/her crew to predict in near real time the behavior of the fire and effort/resources needed to starve it off (sic) fuel and oxygen to bring it under control; advise received, as needed from a central command center, who develop a macro level situation awareness with computational model providing proactive decision support; Advance research in fire fighter (human) sensemaking, situation awareness and naturalistic decision making of complex scenarios in volatile, high stakes and complex settings to understand the fidelity and validity of situation assessment. Understand how firefighters / commander makes a decision on how to engage or disengage from a fire and how do they perceive risks (loss / gain) and probabilities to inform their decision making in real time. ..."
"Signal and imaging technologies (aerial and geospatial sensing and analysis), including command and control (radio communications and computing), that best integrate human and systems to enhance safety. The design of radio communications between the "lookout" and the "hotshots" on the fire ground -- as well as group communications between centralized command & control, lookout and hotshots (shared situation awareness) -- are vital to enhance situation awareness. In other words, comprehend the current conditions, particularly risks and hazards arising due to the fuel source and wind/weather patterns; and, more importantly, project the future trajectory and progression of the fire. Furthermore, the utility and use of large screen, data / computing devices on the fireground for use by the lookout or the hotshot squad leader, where data is fed from ground / aerial sensors (e.g., dropsondes) and video/images from central servers, should be investigated. Even though, this technology may provide valuable thermal and weather intelligence, it also poses the danger of cognitive / attentional tunneling and information overload causing the firefighters to loose situation awareness of dangers in the immediate physical vicinity. Thus it is vital to formulate the right research questions, find answers in terms of training and technologies, to prevent future tragedies resulting from volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous factors, time stress -- that are inherent to wild land fire fighting."
"In his book Superintelligence, Nick Bostrom gives an argument that AI will pose a threat to humankind. He argues that sufficiently intelligent AI can exhibit convergent behavior such as acquiring resources or protecting itself from being shut down, and it might harm humanity.
The danger of cognitive / attentional tunneling and information overload causing the [FFs] to loose situation awareness of dangers in the immediate physical vicinity.
Sufficiently intelligent AI can exhibit convergent behavior such as acquiring resources or protecting itself from being shut down, and it might harm humanity
This (June 26, 2015) LinkedIn article titled: "The Tragedy at Yarnell Hill: Human & Technological Factors in Wildland Firefighting" triggered the following response from this author on our YHFR website: "I'm rereading this after attending the May 2022 Southern CA Foresters and Fire Wardens Conference in Yucaipa, CA. One of the presentations was about the ITAK Technology (link) for tracking, etc. I still come to the same conclusion that the June 30, 2013, YH Fire and GMHS debacle is the biggest cover-up, lie, and whitewash in wildland fire history. The above article mentions the need "to advance our understanding of fire fighter human factors to prevent such future tragedies." The Federally (USFS) funded SAIT-SAIR made a "Recommendation" to the AZ State Forestry to put together a panel of experts to look into human factors. They never did. So, this author and others took it upon ourselves to create the YHFR website to expose the truths (and lies) about this historically tragic wildfire."
Consider now this rather timely YH Fire and GMHS Tenth Anniversary article and how long this author's comment posted below will be "allowed" to remain there.
(KTAR News online - May 17, 2023). New crew locating system to be tested this fire season in Arizona - Brandon Gray
"PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management will test a new satellite-based crew locating and communication device this fire season. The system, DropBlocks, [link] will provide for increased crew accountability and safety during incidents where there may be little to no cell phone or radio service. DropBlocks will be carried and tested by six of DFFM’s 12 wildland fire hand crews. The agency is one of few wildland firefighting agencies in the country with this type of firefighter accountability system. The devices are products of RoGo, [link] a Colorado-based company ["Fights Wildland Fires with Intelligence"] that develops state-of-the-art, satellite-based firefighter reporting systems." [The DropBlock provides bi-directional data communication access in austere areas. DropBlocks also track the GPS location of human & non-human resources. DropBlocks can also send in remote sensor (or IoT) information form any BLE or I2C enabled sensor by transmitting this sensor data over low-cost satellite."]
"[A] solution to address communications and situational
awareness issues so that a tragedy like Yarnell would never happen again."
"The department has been exploring for years ways to increase crew safety and enhance communication between firefighters and overhead. Juliann Ashcraft, the wife of fallen firefighter Andrew Ashcraft, said the devices will provide Wildland Firefighters with a more collaborative and communicated tactical effort."
“Such advances will lead to extinguishing wildfires more efficiently and effectively, and help reduce tragic line of duty deaths, like my husband’s,' Ashcroft said."
"Chief Darrell Willis, DFFM’s crew supervisor, said the tool will be most important and they hope the locating units will help prevent any more wildland fire tragedies."
“The application of these devices has been in the works for quite some time now and has really been a long time coming,' Willis said."
"The system will not use standard radio or cell services and will be provided by Iridium Satellite. DropBlocks will coordinate up-to-the-minute GPS location data and provide real-time data transmissions to agency or incident overhead. According to the agency, the system will be able to more precisely track crew movement and locations in wildland fire incidents."
“By implementing this new technology, tragedies similar to Yarnell Hill will not have to be repeated in the future,” Ashcroft said. “It is imperative to us that lessons be learned from the tragic loss of the GMIHC, and that the deaths of my husband and friends drive profound and lasting change in how we approach wildland firefighting.'”
"If testing is successful, DFFM plans to distribute the device to all the agency’s wildland fire hand crews and engine crews."
This author's comment herein for the above article, considering that they "allowed" it to remain would be this: "'There are and were in 2013, the tried-and-trued Rules of Engagement already in place, including the Ten Standard Fire Orders, 18 Watch Out Situations, LCES, Common Denominators, and Downhill Checklist. It's unfortunate that the June 30, 2013, Yarnell Hill Fire tragedy occurred; and even more unfortunate that the Federally-funded Serious Accident Team (SAIT) and Report (SAIR) covered the whole thing up. They always establish a 'conclusion' first and then find the alleged 'facts' to fit it. So then, their conclusion was "'he judgments and decisions of the incident management organizations managing this fire were reasonable. Firefighters performed within their scope of duty, as defined by the Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation their respective organizations. The Team found no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol. SAIT-SAIR pp. 3-4).'" So then, how is it possible to do every right, and yet kill 19 PFD FFs all at once? In other words, by following the basic Rules of Engagement listed above, this would have never occurred, and those men would still be alive. Thank you for the opportunity to comment. Fred Schoeffler Payson Hot Shots (1981-2007)'"
Figure 4. Mark Twain quote about lies Source: Remarkable Books, FB
“When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth.” ~Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, 2003 In very simple terms, the successful Basic Wildland Firefighting Rules, e.g Ten Standard Fire Orders, 18 Watch Out Situations, LCES, Common Denominators, and the various checklists have existed for years.
The personal and collective protection afforded in these basic, tried-and-trued WFF Rules are responsible for saving tens of thousands of WFF lives every single fire season. Consider now this glaring FFs PPE gaffe image below in Figure 5. from the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) article titled: California asks, who is responsible for wildfire safety? Supervisors should be asking! Okay, but who is responsible for Bubbah's safety, right?
Figure 5. FF on the active fireline wearing no gloves. Source: CSM
And considering this assertion: "Given the nature of the events at Yarnell Hill -- a burnover where the wind radically shifted suddenly and the flames changed direction without warning engulfing the Granite Mountain Hotshots -- posing the following research questions and finding answers may close the gap in our current knowledge on wildland firefighting" - The truth of the matter was that the winds gradually and consistently - predictably - changed over time when the GMHS were perfectly safe in a good Safety Zone (SZ) with the best vantage point on the entire fire except for Air Attack and the two Eyewitness Hikers. They were in their viable Safety Zone for at least an hour according to (Figure 6.) watching, "discussing our options" whether to stay or to leave. Obviously, they opted to leave at the worst possible time.
Figure 6. Blow-up to Burnover - 52 minutes. Source: WFSTAR
Consider the GMHS Mackenzie (RiP) photos in Figure 7. below revealing the obvious adverse fire weather and ensuing adverse fire behavior indicators. This is from an astute, experienced, and knowledgeable former Hot Shot, SJ, and Type One IC regarding the GMHS in their Safety Zone: ""Paul Gleason coined the term “Students of Fire”. But to be a student we must teach the lessons. A photo is worth a thousand words. The fire is telling you what’s going to happen. We know the thunderstorm is producing outflow winds from the north. We watched the smoke quarter around."
Surely, you are willing to trust your own judgement on what you see in Figure 7. and then in Figure 7a. As always, the fire is clearly revealing its intention(s), Or are you going to rely on some type of AI “device” to provide you the same valuable insight regarding Fire Order No. three? The fire gradually built up to this point. There was an obvious progressive shifting of the outflow winds from South to North and then the rogue firing operation(s) and CPS (Campbell Prediction System) terrain alignment. There was no sudden BLOWUP! Indeed, this is so far afield of the SAIT-SAIR “hindsight bias" here that it is absurd. It's as if they were foreigners in a foreign land applying Watch Out No. 4.
You’re kidding, right? Wildfire Today (WFT) Gabbert (RiP) stated: “It is likely that if the fire’s chain of command knew that the crew had left a safe area and decided to hike through unburned brush, they would not have been overrun by the fire."
Really? How about following the Fire Orders and maintaining prompt communication with your Supervisor, Crew, and Adjoining Forces like everyone else did that day?
Figure 7. GMHS SZ and Mackenzie (RiP) June 30, 2013, ~ 3:51 to 3:55 PM photo series indicating increased fire behavior Source: ASF Dropbox
Referring to Figure 7. above and Figure 7a. below, the GMHS left their SZ at the worst possible time without posting a lookout, without notifying either their supervisor (OPS) or Air Attack of their intentions, plans, route of travel, etc. They then proceeded to travel downhill into dense unburned fuel into chutes and chimneys and finally into a deadly bowl where they died. Given the observed fire behavior in these photos, NO portable fire shelter ever designed now or in the future could or would or will ever have saved the GMHS lives in that bowl.
Figure 7a. YH Fire on June 30, 2013, ~ 4:29 PM (1629) photo indicating very aggressive fire behavior. Google Earth overlay indicates GMHS actions, locations, movements Source: Brian Lauber, ASF Dropbox
Figure 8. Is "Big Data" a Big Danger to Humanity? image Source: Dame
What Is the Metaverse, Exactly? Everything you never wanted to know about the future of talking about the future. (Wired - 4/25/22)
"Advocates from niche startups to tech giants have argued that this lack of coherence is because the metaverse is still being built, and it's too new to define what it means. ... the term doesn't really refer to any one specific type of technology, but rather a broad (and often speculative) shift in how we interact with technology. ... after months, there's nothing approaching agreement on what it is. ... The paradox of defining the metaverse is that in order for it to be the future, you have to define away the present."
Figure 9. Risks of Artificial Intelligence image Source: Forbes
A 2021 Stanford University study concluded: "One of the most pressing dangers of [Artificial Intelligence] AI is techno-solutionism, the view that AI can be seen as a panacea when it is merely a tool. [footnote omitted] As we see more AI advances, the temptation to apply AI decision-making to all societal problems increases. But technology often creates larger problems in the process of solving smaller ones."
The Internet is rife with articles, research, podcasts, videos - you name it - extolling the alleged benefits and virtues of AI and wildfires. They also use the term "machine learning" whatever that means.
Report To The President - Modernizing Wildland Firefighting to Protect Our Firefighters [MWFTPOF] - Executive Office of the President - President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (February2023)
"In the absence of this knowledge, firefighters and civilians face much greater risk of catastrophic loss of life and property when confronted with fast-moving wildfires. The Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013 (19 firefighter fatalities, [footnote omitted] $660M cost [footnote omitted]) and the Camp Fire in 2018 (85 civilian fatalities, $16.6B cost [footnote omitted]) are just two of many recent examples." (p. 18)
“As a firefighter, understanding what a fire does—and more important, being able to predict what it’s going to do—is a matter of life and death.” [Footnote 33: Ramos, J. A. (2016). Smokejumper] (p. 18) [A true statement]
"The ability of incident commanders to track wildfire progression relative to firefighter positions in real time has been described as the “Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety.” [Footnote 36: Gabbert, B. (July 12, 2014). What is the Forest Service Doing About Tracking Firefighters and Fires in Real Time? Wildfire Today.]
"Wildland firefighters such as those quoted above recognize the value that new technologies could bring for improving the safety and effectiveness of their work. In the aforementioned context of situational awareness, pilot projects funded by the federal government have demonstrated technologies to give wildfire incident commanders constant, real-time, situational awareness of all firefighters on the scene of an active fire." [Footnote 24: DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] Modifies Military Equipment to be Used by Firefighters. Arizona firefighters test the tracking technology that gives U.S. military commanders real-time, constant situational awareness of troops on a battlefield.] (p. 13) "The [DARPA] has donated $225,000 worth of situational awareness equipment to the Prescott, Arizona Fire Department. The 19 firefighters that died on the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013 were members of the department’s Granite Mountain Hotshots. It is likely that if the fire’s chain of command knew that the crew had left a safe area and decided to hike through unburned brush, they would not have been overrun by the fire."
It is likely that if the fire’s chain of command knew that the crew had left a safe area and decided to hike through unburned brush, they would not have been overrun by the fire.
Wildfire Today Bill Gabbert (RiP)
“It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.” Thomas Paine, Age of Reason
Regarding their overtly bold, yet realistically nebulous MWFTPOF statement above, some obvious necessary clarifying, accurate, and truthful history while debunking the False Cause Fallacy, is required here to set the record straight. Because this author and many others consider this as one of the causal factors leading up to the June 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire and GMHS debacle being “the biggest cover-up, lie, and whitewash in wildland fire history.” The GMHS was a nationally recognized and fully certified Type One Interagency Hot Shot Crew, and like all other FFs and WFs engaged in wildland firefighting, was required to knowing and understanding, recognizing, and then mitigating the 18 Watch Out Situations as guidelines, while adhering to the well-established, tried-and-true Rules of Engagement, (i.e. Ten Standard Fire Orders, LCES, the Eighteen Watch Out Situations, Common Denominators, and Downhill Checklist) (NWCG IRPG).
We may as well also add in the overlooked, yet equally important principles of Entrapment Avoidance included in the 2002 publication titled: "Crew Cohesion, Wildland Fire Transition, and Fatalities" by Jon Driessen, Ph.D.
Sociologist, USDA Forest Service, Technology and Development Program, Missoula, MT. TE02P16—Fire and Aviation Management Technical Services.
"Two Entrapment Avoidance Projects: Studying Crew Cohesion as a Social Human Factor." Jon Driessen, Lisa Outka-Perkins, and Leslie Anderson. Eighth International Wildland Fire Safety Summit, 4/26-28/05 Missoula, MT. "The paper presents a progress report on two entrapment avoidance projects at the Missoula Technology and Development Center. Experiments with different qualitative study techniques permitted the discovery and documentation of commonsense, successful work practices crew leaders used to resolve crew cohesion problems on wildland fires. Leaders of different kinds of Forest Service fire crews were comfortable telling detailed stories of work practices they used at specific moments on fires to resolve problems with crew cohesion. Their stories preserved the social context of what was going on at the time. The paper presents some examples of different cohesion problems crew leaders faced, as well as examples of some commonsense work practices they used to keep their crews cohesive. Interviews so far show that experienced leaders of fire crews don’t see poor crew cohesion as a direct cause of entrapment. Rather, crew leaders saw good crew cohesion as a latent preventative factor that reduced the chances of an entrapment. The paper ends with a short note on work planned for the next 2 years, concluding with a brief discussion of how the stories from crew leaders can be used for training."
Clearly, these principles and guidelines are noticeably responsible for saving tens of thousands of FFs and WFs lives each and every fire season since they were established. In addition, there are no documented cases of any FFs or WFs heeding these Rules of Engagement and getting burned over, deploying fire shelters, entrapped, or killed. None! This author challenges anyone and everyone to prove otherwise. In 2002, former USFS Fire Director Jerry Williams fully supported that assertion in a Fire Mgmt. Today (FMT) article: ‘The Ten Standard Firefighting Orders must be firm rules of engagement.” In addition, the National Park Service (NPS) solidly holds: “If firefighters follow the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders and are alerted to the 18 Watch-Out Situations, much of the risk of firefighting can be reduced.”
Continuing on with the dubious direction, need, request, or whatever it is to trust an Artificial Intelligence device instead of your cognitive skills or inherent intuition to ensure your safety.
"Here and Now and Later in the Future" Wildland Fire Artificial Intelligence: "Several portable electronic networking devices can be placed on mountaintops or in planes to connect firefighters with a self-contained mobile 4G network in remote locations. The entire network is called MANET for Mobile Ad-hoc Network.
"For example, he can use the tablet to calculate the distance to a safety zone and how long it might take to get there based on the terrain. While the time calculation doesn’t include vegetation, a firefighter still can look at real-time images of the vegetation and terrain."
"One firefighter can hike an escape route and then transmit that route to other firefighters, Keith added. ... Incident command officers can use the system’s video screens to display the exact locations of firefighters wearing the kits. And firefighters facing an emergency can override others on the radio system to announce their situation."
"Firefighters on the ground access the same video feeds as the supervisors. They can zoom in on their location, then zoom out to gain situational awareness. They have access to the Internet and its weather information. Fire managers can add the locations of the fire perimeter, spot fires and safety zones on the maps for all to see. Map layers include terrain, roads and structures. The system can even tell when firefighters are about to go out of the range of communication.. ... This is game-changing technology,” Kluckhuhn said. “What you are seeing now didn’t exist a year ago.”
"The software that runs the system, called Fireline Advanced Situational Awareness Handheld (FLASH) was designed specifically by DARPA for wildland firefighting. The government now owns the software. The hardware is expensive, about $9,000 for each firefighter kit, so there’s little chance that anyone outside of the military will be purchasing the equipment."
"A step toward the Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety?
"We have written several times about the Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety. As I envision it, the system would enable radios carried by firefighters and in their vehicles to transmit their location in real time which would then show up on a remote display (on anything from a cell phone or a 7″ tablet, up to a laptop computer) that would be monitored by a Safety Officer, Branch Director, Ops Chief, or Division Supervisor. The display would also show the real time location of the fire. Knowing either of these in real time would enhance the safety of firefighters. Knowing both is the Holy Grail.
Since 2006 at least 24 wildland firefighters have been killed whose deaths probably could have been prevented if their supervisors had known in real time the location of the firefighters and the fire. Those fatalities occurred on the Yarnell Hill and Esperanza Fires. If we go back through entrapments over the last several decades, we would probably find many others that fall into the same category. How many more firefighters will we mourn before the Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety is available and deployed?
Decision Support System Development of Wildland Fire: A Systematic Mapping. MDPI (Vol. 12, Issue 7, July 2021) This author feels that this research paper is fairly discerning on some of the more important capabilities and limitations of AI versus Human Intelligence issues. "To act appropriately on a wildland fire and reduce the risk, one must be aware of the situation and know as many details as possible in order to make decisions. Situational awareness becomes a critical factor in any activity where the complexity negatively affects decision-making. ... To act appropriately on a wildland fire and reduce the risk, one must be aware of the situation and know as many details as possible in order to make decisions. Situational awareness becomes a critical factor in any activity where the complexity negatively affects decision-making ... these systems incorporate activities such as the acquisition of information relevant to the problem that needs a decision and action; ... Some examples of fire analysis include weather forecasts, safety zones and escape routes, suppression difficulty maps, and fire control location probabilities. Incorporating analytics is not a substitute for making real-time adjustments based on human judgment, but it can inform more strategic response decisions. Infusing risk management into the fire management system has the potential to improve decision-making, improve the safety and effectiveness of wildfire responses, and usher in a necessary change in wildfire management."
And this wholly unrelated and welcome bioethics research paper titled: The impact of artificial intelligence on human society and bioethics clearly considers several of their recommended "requirements" for AI "decisions" related to human intervention and human oversight (e.g. "AI should not trample on human autonomy. People should not be manipulated or coerced by AI systems, and humans should be able to intervene or oversee every decision that the software makes" and "Data and algorithms used to create an AI system should be accessible, and the decisions made by the software should be 'understood and traced by human beings.' In other words, operators should be able to explain the decisions their AI systems make.")
It is rather disconcerting that any FF, WF, Supervisor, or Fireline Overhead would rely on that statement above by some nebulous untrustworthy AI rather than a living human being regarding some AI determining your "safety zones and escape routes" for you!
Figure 10. Decision Support System Development of Wildland Fire (DSSDWF) Graphical Abstract of the technologies. Source: MDPI
Metaverse beyond the hype: Multidisciplinary perspectives on emerging challenges, opportunities, and agenda for research, practice and policy. (Univ of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, October 2022, ScholarWorks)
("The metaverse has the potential to extend the physical world using augmented and virtual reality technologies allowing users to seamlessly interact within real and simulated environments using avatars and holograms.") An agreed upon definition of the term metaverse within the literature has yet to be agreed on, however, we align with succinct definition as detailed in Damar (2021) where the study describes the metaverse as: “the layer between you and reality” and the metaverse referring to a “3D virtual shared world where all activities can be carried out with the help of augmented and virtual reality services”.
US firefighters turn to AI to battle the blazes. "As wildfires continue to burn across the Western US, firefighters are using data analytics to aid in fighting the flames. Statistical models predict how fires spread, which helps make sure firefighters are deployed to where they are most needed. Christian Science Monitor. (7/23/21) Thomas Reuters Avi Asher-Schapiro. "Artificial intelligence helps model fires before they break out ... For decades, firefighters have relied on analytics to predict the possible behavior of fires, pulling on a range of data from weather patterns to satellite footage of potential fire fuels and historical fire behavior. Now advances in computing and artificial intelligence (AI) mean they can increasingly lean on predictive technologies to supercharge their own insights. "When I was first asked if we could use artificial intelligence to fight fires, I said, 'No way. There's too much uncertainty,'" recalled David Calkin, a longtime U.S. Forest Service (USFS) researcher. ... "
An almost identical article by Shapiro titled: "Catching fire: AI is helping scarce firefighters better predict blazes" Thomson Reuters Foundation (July 22, 2021) states Dunn and the other experts stress that these models work best when coupled with human insights - and when people living in wildfire-prone areas understand the process."
Here is an informative and interesting article worth reading, questioning the safety, validity, and value of AI: AI Is a Lot of Work - As the technology becomes ubiquitous, a vast tasker underclass is emerging - and not going anywhere. Intelligencer. Josh Dzieza. June 20, 2023.
From the article: "But behind even the most impressive AI system are people - huge numbers of people labeling data to train it and clarifying data when it gets confused. ... The anthropologist David Graeber defines “bulls**t jobs” as employment without meaning or purpose, work that should be automated but for reasons of bureaucracy or status or inertia is not. These AI jobs are their bizarro twin: work that people want to automate, and often think is already automated, yet still requires a human stand-in. The jobs have a purpose; it’s just that workers often have no idea what it is. ... Annotation remains a foundational part of making AI, but there is often a sense among engineers that it’s a passing, inconvenient prerequisite to the more glamorous work of building models. ... But annotation is never really finished. Machine-learning systems are what researchers call “brittle,” prone to fail when encountering something that isn’t well represented in their training data. These failures, called “edge cases,” can have serious consequences."
Figure 11. AI is a lot of work article image Source: Intelligencer
Some Other Unquestionably Diverse & Questionable Perspectives
AI-Driven Predictions Key to Combating Rise in Wildfires. [FFs]
can use autonomous systems and predictive analytics to prepare for disasters. (Anthony Robbins StateTech March 21, 2023) "In February, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) submitted recommendations for modernizing firefighting. Much of that guidance focused on how technology can arm current and future [FFs] as they defend more than 1.5 billion acres of fire-prone land across the [US]."
As automated software makes pivotal decisions about our employment, usually without any oversight, it's posing fundamental questions about privacy, accountability and transparency.
HR tech and recruiters are reasonably at odds. Hiring managers don't choose the automated hiring software the company uses, yet they can grow to mistrust it after witnessing its pitfalls, according to Mona Sloane, a sociologist at NYU who studies the intersection of automated technology and policy. Throughout her research, Sloane has been pleasantly surprised by how strongly recruiters feel the process still rests on their discretion and decision-making, and how critical they are of AI. Even with all the tech tools, things like human connection, judgment and trust-building remain golden, ZipRecruiter' Pollack says.
The New Age of Hiring: AI Is Changing the Game for Job Seekers - Automation, algorithms and machine learning are taking over recruitment and hiring. How do we compete with the rise of robots? (Laura Michelle-Davis - CNET - Your guide to a better future. July 9, 2023)
Technology, though, is a curse and a blessing,
depending on how it's wielded and who's wielding it.
Consider these somewhat germane excerpts regarding both likely and potential human and AI biases and errors. "Numerous studies and reports have documented the ways in which bias can creep into automated systems. [footnote omitted] When incomplete, unrepresentative, or error-ridden data are used to train a model, the resulting predictions can produce biased outcomes. Training data may encode biased human judgements, ... and the model takes them as objective measures of performance. And because predictive models extract patterns in past data to make future predictions ..." (US EEOC Hearings - Navigating Employment Discrimination in AI and Automated Systems: A New Civil Rights Frontier - Testimony of Pauline Kim - 1/3/23)
Is “Big Data” a Big Danger to Humanity? Advanced technology promises to modernize everything from communication to war, but math and machines are not immune to human bias. Dame. Lisa Needham (5/31/18)
"Advanced technology promises to modernize everything from communication to war, but math and machines are not immune to human bias. There’s a lot of hype about 'big data,' a catchall term for using computers to analyze huge amounts of information in order to reveal patterns and predict outcomes—artificial intelligence, facial recognition software, and understanding computers so companies can better target ads. The result forms the basis for a halcyon sci-fi future: a place where machines use algorithms to crunch through massive troves of information and make objective decisions, free from messy human biases."
"Lordan said the value of artificial intelligence, ... , is producing accurate and timely information for fire managers, what he called “actionable intelligence.” there will always be a need for 'ground-truthing' by people. Applying AI to fighting wildfires isn’t about taking people out of the loop, Lockheed Martin spokesman Chip Eschenfelder said. 'Somebody will always be in the loop, but people currently in the loop are besieged by so much data they can’t sort through it fast enough. That’s where this is coming from;” How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Fight Fires in the West Denver Post 2022.
"When companies today deploy artificial intelligence programs, they are most likely using machine learning — so much so that the terms are often used interchangeably, and sometimes ambiguously. Machine learning is a subfield of artificial intelligence that gives computers the ability to learn without explicitly being programmed. ... Reinforcement learning can train models to [make] the right decisions, which helps it learn over time what actions it should take." ... In some cases, machine learning can gain insight or automate decision-making in cases where humans would not be able to, Madry said. “It may not only be more efficient and less costly to have an algorithm do this, but sometimes humans just literally are not able to do it,” he said. ... One area of concern is what some experts call explainability, or the ability to be clear about what the machine learning models are doing and how they make decisions. “Understanding why a model does what it does is actually a very difficult question, and you always have to ask yourself that,” Madry said. “You should never treat this as a black box, that just comes as an oracle … yes, you should use it, but then try to get a feeling of what are the rules of thumb that it came up with? And then validate them ... Machine learning, explained MIT Management Sloan School - Sara Brown (2021).
Machine learning is a subfield of artificial intelligence that gives computers the ability to learn without explicitly being programmed.
Sometimes humans just literally are not able to do it
"As it is evident from the name, it gives the computer that makes it more similar to humans ..." Geeks For Geeks. Machine Learning Tutorial (2023) This website has a virtual ton of valuable links worth exploring
Figure 12. Understand & Explain quote Source: A. Einstein, D. Lamb FB
"In reality, it doesn’t work out that way at all. Even the most complex algorithms and futuristic technology are programmed by humans, and we are prone to nothing if not bias. Big data has the potential to reduce bias in the legal system and to provide better data for scientific research, but only with strict transparency and regulation. Without that, big data can serve to further exacerbate institutionalized racism by covering it with a veneer of faux rationality and contribute to building a surveillance state. And that’s just the beginning."
The Surveillance State
The issues with the use of big data and A.I. by the criminal justice system aren’t just limited to systemic racism. A.I. is already helping police and governments massively expand the surveillance state. And you can thank the private sector for that. Take Amazon, which developed a facial recognition tool called Rekognition. They’ve passed along that tool to law enforcement, which brings up some serious privacy concerns. The ACLU, in a letter asking Amazon to stop selling the tool to law enforcement, compiled a list of the most chilling language:
“Amazon offers a ‘person tracking’ feature that it says ‘makes investigation and monitoring of individuals easy and accurate’ for “surveillance applications.’ Amazon says Rekognition can be used to identify ‘all faces in group photos, crowded events, and public places such as A.I.reports’—at a time when Americans are joining public protests at unprecedented levels. Amazon also encourages the use of Rekognition to monitor ‘people of interest,’ raising the possibility that those labeled suspicious by governments— will be targeted for Rekognition surveillance.”
When pressed about how bad this sounds, Amazon washed its hands of the matter, simply saying they’ll cut off access to the tool for anyone who violates their terms of service. But when you specifically sell organizations on the use of your tool by encouraging them to surveil people, it doesn’t seem like surveillance would then violate any term of service. Amazon also says that the use of Rekognition means that it can store image and video of the users the service generates, which means your data isn’t just living with the police department—it’s living with a giant for-profit corporation. Facebook has already also built a massive facial recognition database, and other companies are getting in on the act too. Axon—the corporation that makes Tasers—is marketing its body cameras to police departments by letting them use the cameras free for a year. What does Axon get out of the deal? Tons of video footage that helps it build its A.I. database which, in turn, can help police more effectively target people. Eventually, police would be able to use their body cameras in conjunction with real-time facial recognition software, which means that police could, for example, identify everyone at a political protest. But they’ll also misidentify people. Existing facial characterization algorithms, which perform the far simpler task of merely characterizing people via age, gender, and race, have high error rates when examining the face of darker-skinned people. It’s tough to draw a line between the semi-benign uses of facial recognition, such as Facebook figuring out which friends are in your timeline photos, and the police using it to more efficiently track people. Unless we can draw incredibly strict boundaries around who can use facial recognition and why—perhaps for situations like AMBER Alerts only, for example—we’ll continue to see it exploited by the surveillance state."
Well, you could have predicted that ICE would be eager to use this sort of technology. The organization is already using a nationwide license plate recognition database, which gives its agents real-time tracking capabilities. The data set they’ve licensed has more than 2 billion license plate photos [two thousand million] gathered from other big data sources like car repossession records and police databases. It’s a perfect example of how big data accretes and forms more big data, all with dangerous results. Your kids could soon be tracked by the same facial recognition technology that police are eager to deploy. A school district in New York has already spent millions to buy a security system connected to a multi-camera surveillance network. In theory, it would be used to identify school visitors and make sure they’re not a threat, but there’s just no reason it couldn’t be used to flag and track students. The horizon isn’t entirely bleak, though. There’s a bill making its way through the New York City Council that would require the creation of a task force that would provide recommendations about the use of automated decision-making tools. It’s the barest of beginnings, but at least it’s a start. It could be the first step in breaking what big data ethics researchers call the “black box” — the fact that proprietary big data and A.I. software keeps their inputs, outputs, and mechanisms secret. We don’t know what data goes in, and we don’t know why it comes out the way it does."
We don’t know what data goes in,
and we don’t know why it comes out the way it does.
Technology can’t solve all our problems,
especially when we are the problem.
Can Tech Actually Save Humanity? Technology has developed and altered human life so swiftly that it’s left many of society’s institutions ill-equipped to handle its faults. (Dame Meira Gebel Jun 7, 2021)
Back in 1962, when animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera pictured the future, they imagined a world where technology solved any and all inconvenience. ... Fast forward nearly 60 years, and much of the tech Hanna and Barbera dreamed up actually exists, like drones, jet-packs, and smartwatches. The technology of today, however, has seemingly caused more inconvenience than it has solved, and in the process, exposed some of the more ugly aspects of humanity. ... Artificial intelligence (AI), once lauded as potentially better than human intelligence, is embedded with our same biases and blindspots. ... But before we start asking ourselves if tech can still save us, perhaps we are better off re-evaluating why we look to tech in the first place. At its core, technology is simply a tool, developed by and for humans, to solve various problems. So why do we place so much significance on its ability to change our livelihoods? And when it doesn’t, why do we use it as a scapegoat instead of as an opportunity to look internally? “There’s nothing wrong with being excited about technology and excited about its potential in what it can do for us and things that it might be able to ameliorate or improve,” said Louisa Heinrich, founder of Superhuman Limited, which promotes “human-centric” technology. “But those expectations need to be tempered with a dose of reality.” ... Sites like Facebook rely on artificial intelligence and third-party fact-checkers to reduce distribution of misinformation by removing hateful content or labeling it. But the same algorithm-powered AI is what keeps users on Facebook, by promoting emotionally engaging content, which has proven to be divisive and exploitative. “AI is improving exponentially all the time,” said Yotam Ophir, an assistant professor of communication at the University at Buffalo that has been studying misinformation for over a decade. “We are going to have better tools for detecting misleading claims and conspiricies (sic), but the question is: How will we decide to use that technology?” ... despite highly publicized examples of it being faulty, and, oftentimes, racially discriminatory. ... Lia Holland, campaign director for the nonprofit advocacy group Fight for the Future. “We need to recognize what priorities we should have going into the future, and the biggest priority should be privacy as a fundamental human right, which has drastically eroded through technology.” ... The inherent flaws of these technologies often leads to public outcry over whether or not they should be implemented or even developed. But it’s easy to misplace the blame, according to Holland. “There’s a very dangerous perspective that technology is smarter than us, and that artificial intelligence is better than human intelligence,” they said. “The use of these technologies is becoming a way to remove the personal element ... because if the computer made you do it, the computer is always right. ... determining what’s most likely to happen in future based on what’s happened in the past. ... A smart city done right is a city that connects with its citizens and empowers them and enriches their lives at the same time, enabling those citizens to report their data and their observations to find opportunities for improvement. .. . Technology is really only as great and successful as the people behind it,” said Heinrich, the founder of Superhuman Limited. “There’s no such thing as technology that you can build once and then it’ll be great forever. It’s not God, it’s a set of tools. ... Humans are the ones who create technology. So the question shouldn’t be will tech save us, it’s will we save ourselves.
Humans are the ones who create technology.
So the question shouldn’t be will tech save us,
it’s will we save ourselves.
The Truth About Artificial Intelligence - Dame. June 7, 2023
AI’s consumer use has exploded. The ever-evolving tech is being studied in thousands of labs around the world, run by universities, corporations, and governments. In 2022, more than one in three organizations reported that they were using artificial intelligence technology in their businesses. By 2030, the global AI market is set to be worth over $1.5 trillion. [one thousand and five hundred billions] AI is here to stay, but what that means for humanity, if it will improve or detract from human existence, is the looming question. ... Earlier this year, when tech CEO Sam Altman of OpenAI and two other artificial intelligence experts appeared before Congress to discuss the rapidly developing technology, there were three key takeaways, or rather, three key unknowns [only two of which will be addressed]: 1. Data. Some of the most powerful AI are language learning models, which are built and operate on massive amounts of existing data—much of which was/is made by people who have no idea their work would be used to train a piece of software. ... How to regulate that data usage transparently and fairly leads us into point two.
2. A new federal or international agency. Experts and policymakers (surprisingly, on both sides of the aisle) agree regulation of a technology that doesn’t necessarily have a boundary is a must. Yet it’s a tricky dance. Few scientists want a full-stop on the technology’s development. AI holds the promise to transform too many fields, including science, medicine, and education. But that technology in the wrong hands, or runaway AI that learns to behave on its own, could lead to political and economic catastrophe. ... Technological advancement has always come with a set of wins and losses—we can’t eliminate every bad actor. Yet there is credibility to the warnings. Could AI reach the singularity, a hypothetical future when we can’t control technology and it forever changes civilization? Yes, experts say. Are we there right now? No. But the sooner we make it work for us, the better… and even use it to combat present and greater threats to our existence.
What to to to avoid relying on Artificial Intelligence
Can We Trust Artificial Intelligence? Caltech Science Exchange
"Experts emphasize that artificial intelligence technology itself is neither good nor bad in a moral sense, but its uses can lead to both positive and negative outcomes. With artificial intelligence (AI) tools increasing in sophistication and usefulness, people and industries are eager to deploy them to increase efficiency, save money, and inform human decision making. But are these tools ready for the real world? As any comic book fan knows: with great power comes great responsibility. The proliferation of AI raises questions about trust, bias, privacy, and safety, and there are few settled, simple answers. As AI has been further incorporated into everyday life, more scholars, industries, and ordinary users are examining its effects on society. The academic field of AI ethics has grown over the past five years and involves engineers, social scientists, philosophers, and others.intelligence comes increasingly to bear on human lives, how ought we to address social and ethical concerns? Is a tighter symbiosis between human systems and AI systems the way forward?"
"To trust a technology, you need evidence that it works in all kinds of conditions, and that it is accurate. "We live in a society that functions based on a high degree of trust. We have a lot of systems that require trustworthiness, and most of them we don't even think about day to day," says Caltech professor Yisong Yue."
And now to address and answer the post title question: Are We Being Forced to “Safely” Fight Wildfires With Some Dubious System's Faux "Artificial Intelligence" vs. Human Intelligence? And, of course, as your checklist, the Rules of Engagement are provided below in Figure 13:
Figure 13. Rules of Engagement, IRPG back cover Snippet Source: NWCG, IRPG
Referring to Figure 13. above, seriously consider whether we will ever be able to “Safely” Fight Wildfires With Some Dubious System's Faux "Artificial Intelligence" vs. our trusted Human Intelligence Rules of Engagement that have worked for years - until they were emasculated with the September 28, 2013, "official" SAIT-SAIR conclusion that "The Team found no indication of negligence, reckless actions or violations of policy or protocol" How was it possible to do everything right and yet 19 PFD FFs died in one fell swoop June 30, 2013? (YHFR 2022). Experts are varied.
The positive - AI is here to stay. So get on board... or get left behind... LinkedIn (Colin Cooper - May 5, 2023) "... the undeniable fact that AI is here to stay."