Patrick Meier, Ph.D., Class of 2012
Director of Social Innovation, Qatar Computing Research Institute
The 2012 Summit was one of the most unforgettable events I’ve attended in recent years. There were many insights and key messages that I took away from the Summit. One of the distinguished speakers we had the honor of listening to made it clear to us that we each had a lot more to accomplish during the second half of our careers. He warned us not to get overly comfortable or to simply ride out the next wave of our careers based on our initial accomplishments. The difference between future success and extraordinary achievement depended on what we decided to do with the second half of our careers. I was particularly burnt out at the time, so those words were hard to hear. But I knew that the distinguished speaker was right, so I promised myself to revisit these words of wisdom in the near future..
As this year draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the important advice we received at the 2012 Summit. Have I acted on the guidance provided? Well, the past two years have certainly been the most exciting of my career thus far. In partnership with the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations, I’ve been able to pioneer the next generation of humanitarian technologies and apply them to support relief efforts in the face of major disasters across the globe. What makes these technologies part of the next generation? Simple: they combine human computing (crowdsourcing) with machine computing (artificial intelligence) to make sense of “Big Data” generated during disasters. This “Big Data” includes social media, for example, as well as satellite imagery and — increasingly — aerial imagery (captured by UAVs). Thanks to our hard work over the past two years, my outstanding team and I have also seen our work featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wired, Forbes, TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, The Guardian, Nature, New Scientist, Foreign Affairs, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review and National Geographic, as well as on CNN, the BBC, PBS, CBC, NBC, Slate and Mashable amongst other media coverage. Lastly, my book Digital Humanitarians (http://www.digital-humanitarians.com) — which I had not even contemplated writing before the Summit — will appear in just a few weeks.
So I’d like to think that I’ve given the second half of my career an early boost, thanks to my outstanding team. But now is certainly not the time to ride the wave of accomplishments from the past two years and coast through the rest of this decade with eyes half-closed. Humanitarian disasters won’t be taking a break, so neither must we. And thus I take the spirit of the 2012 Summit to heart and look forward to doing my part to making the world a better place in the years and decades to come.
All the best,