Fire Fighting in Canada

Comment: Will AI be the big game changer?

March 29, 2024 
By Laura Aiken

The human race has a long history of using technology to its advantage and demise. There is nothing homeo-sapiens-made without its dark side. We invented wheels, a crucial mechanism in our modernization; wheels some of us also use to run one another over in. We split atoms like the smarty-pants mammals we are…and look how that turned out. Rarely is the full scope of a technology’s impact recognized at its unfurling — only its potential and the business case drives the sale to society. We wouldn’t have technological progress without an element of willful blindness. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest technology wearing a lacy veil of promise and peril. The potential for abuse is exponential in its ability to fool us and create illusion where we seek truth. For all it’s potential, I predict there will be danger and disaster beyond our predictive abilities. There always are. Social media seemed so innocuous to many at its onset, but its impacts are being recognized and studied more now. The New York Times published a new investigation examining how childhood is being reshaped, for girls in particular, with some kids earning six figure incomes off monthly subscriptions to their images. An internal study at Meta (Facebook and Instagram’s parent company) found “that 500,000 child Instagram accounts had “inappropriate interactions every day”, court records show.” 

Using social media as an example of utility alongside detriment, AI has this same capacity to cause harms, and its development is moving at the speed of money, not the deliberate pace of legislation and rational debate. 

For the fire service, AI will drive the autonomous vehicles and complex data systems that can contribute to improved wildfire detection and response. AI will facilitate data sets to better public education and create sophisticated training opportunities. In the fight against wildfires, the ability to accurately predict and analyze the fire can be vastly improved by tapping the abilities of AI. Early warning systems are the name of the game, and AI could be a game changer for wildfire response. Operating, of course, in concert with the bright minds and hard-working humans responding. 


It’s unclear what the potential abuses of AI are in the fire sector. There are clear reasons to pursue its potential, and much to be had in the way of promises. Perhaps the peril will be in what illusions it can create about people, not in its ability to collect data and behave as an all-star executive assistant. There is an X factor to solve that only time can shed insight on, but there is always a benefit to theorizing what could go wrong, a skill the fire service has much expertise in, and would be wise to apply as AI drives technologies and innovations to the front door of your department, response and ultimately, your life. 

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