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The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Buffett Institute and McCormick host second annual Joint Conference on AI and National Security

Andi Griñé/The Daily Northwestern
Evanston and Chicago residents, as well as people from around the world, attended Thursday’s conference.

The Buffett Institute for Global Affairs hosted its second annual joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence & National Security on Thursday alongside the McCormick School of Engineering. 

Buffett Institute Executive Director Annelise Riles, welcomed attendees and addressed how technological advancement impacts global affairs. Riles said Northwestern is at the forefront of researching these issues. 

“Universities have been a little bit slow in catching up and understanding this,” Riles said. “We here at the Buffett Institute consider this an opportunity for us to put technology at the core of everything that we do.” 

The conference’s speakers included faculty and graduate students from NU and faculty from other universities like Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University. 

The event also facilitated international collaboration from officials in the U.S. Department of Defense and the Netherlands Ministry of Defence.

Buffet Faculty Fellow and McCormick Prof. V.S. Subrahmanian spoke on advances in artificial intelligence as a means for counterterrorism and the research conducted in the Northwestern Security and AI Lab since its inception last year.

Subrahmanian demonstrated various projects in the works at the lab, including software trained to determine the probability of terrorist attacks, like Boko Haram Analytics for Child Kidnapping or B.HACK. This software allows users to analyze a map of Nigerian schools for the likelihood of attacks from Boko Haram, which the State Department has designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization. 

The lab has also designed more complex AI training models, like the Terrorism Reduction with AI Deepfakes project. Here, they program AI to create fake video and audio footage of high-profile terrorists to spread dissension and disorganization among terrorist groups.

While the lab is not on the front lines of confronting counterterrorism, Subrahmanian said he hopes its efforts can promote the use of AI for international security.

“It really is a community effort built by several people,” Subrahmanian said. “We are slowly but surely having an impact, as more and more counterterrorism experts understand the use of AI for securing the world.”

Graduate students from the Chicago area representing DePaul University and NU attended the conference. 

Weinberg senior Priyanka Amin, a researcher in the lab, presented at the conference. She said her intended career path made the event especially rewarding.

“I’m interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity and counterterrorism, so it’s always great to hear people talk about all these different projects and get their perspectives on everything,” Amin said.

Aside from students, faculty and government officials, several Evanston residents also attended Thursday’s conference. 

Evanston resident Barbara Bayldon said she pays close attention to national security, which drew her to the event.

“I’m very interested in artificial intelligence and how that’s gonna change the world,” Bayldon said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @andiginyay

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