Opportunities and Challenges for Artificial Intelligence Applications in Infrastructure Management During the Anthropocene

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2 Scopus citations


Pervasive and accelerating climatic, technological, social, economic, and institutional change dictate that the challenges of the future will likely be vastly different and more complex than they are today. As our infrastructure systems (and their surrounding environment) become increasingly complex and beyond the cognitive understanding of any group of individuals or institutions, artificial intelligence (AI) may offer critical cognitive insights to ensure that systems adapt, services continue to be provided, and needs continue to be met. This paper conceptually links AI to various tasks and leadership capabilities in order to critically examine potential roles that AI can play in the management and implementation of infrastructure systems under growing complexity and uncertainty. Ultimately, various AI techniques appear to be increasingly well-suited to make sense of and operate under both stable (predictable) and chaotic (unpredictable) conditions. The ability to dynamically and continuously shift between stable and chaotic conditions is critical for effectively navigating our complex world. Thus, moving forward, a key adaptation for engineers will be to place increasing emphasis on creating the structural, financial, and knowledge conditions for enabling this type of flexibility in our integrated human-AI-infrastructure systems. Ultimately, as AI systems continue to evolve and become further embedded in our infrastructure systems, we may be implicitly or explicitly releasing control to algorithms. The potential benefits of this arrangement may outweigh the drawbacks. However, it is important to have open and candid discussions about the potential implications of this shift and whether or not those implications are desirable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number551598
JournalFrontiers in Water
StatePublished - Jan 27 2021


  • anthropocene
  • artificial intelligence
  • climate change
  • complexity
  • infrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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