As associate professor of applied science and data science at William & Mary, Dan Runfola's research takes place at the intersection of machine learning and satellite imagery analysis. Dan works with federal agencies and international non-governmental organizations to develop new and secure ways to measure, predict and improve human well-being. "At William & Mary, we have this wonderful nexus of individuals who care not only about the models, but also about how we are going to use these algorithms in practice,” Dan said. With his students in the geoLab, for instance, Dan provides critical baseline data to the open source community to improve data equality around the globe.
Dan compares the increasing disruption provided by artificial intelligence to the Industrial Revolution — only on a bigger scale. From decision-making to job security, almost all aspects of the human experience will interact with AI. Dan, however, is optimistic as long as proper safeguards are in place: “Today, with the right prompts you can ask a generative algorithm to write a poem; tomorrow, an AI might decide to read you a poem it wrote because you were looking glum,” Dan said. “That could be a beautiful thing."