Issue #31: AI and your health
Will AI innovations live up to the hype?
Do you use fitness trackers? Maybe you have a step count on your mobile phone, a smartwatch monitoring your heart rate, the Oura ring checking your temperature, or even a glucose-monitor screening your blood sugar. Health tech has been rising for years, and it’s producing an enormous amount of health data. But would you be ok with giving your personal health data for medical research? If you’re like me, you enjoy observing your own data to improve your fitness, sleep, or diet but won’t feel too comfortable sharing this information with others. Data is the fuel artificial intelligence works on, yet its quality and availability are still limited. Nevertheless, the medical community is facing a significant AI hype — and in the best-case scenario, the world will soon benefit from it.
Headlines you shouldn’t miss
DAILY MAIL Fancy a byte to eat? Chinese restaurant chain is forced to use ROBOT waiters priced at £14,500 each after struggling with staff shortages during the Covid pandemic: In a North England restaurant, guests might receive their food by a shelf robot. The management of the Chinese restaurant decided to purchase the machine servant due to the massive labor shortage and says its remaining human staff could better focus on customers’ “emotional needs.”
MIT SLOAN Human Diversity Will Save Your Job From the Robot Takeover: Automation has traditionally been saluted if it replaces dirty, dull, or dangerous jobs. However, AI poses a threat for jobs that don’t fall into these categories. Diversity within teams could protect workers from job loss as they could enter a complementary work relationship with AI systems offering broader perspectives.
HANDELSBLATT The dark side of AI: Killer robots become a reality: International attempts to restrict the development and use of autonomous military machinery are failing. During the Libyan civil war in 2020, Turkey seemed to have used autonomous high-tech weapons. Now, the country is developing and exporting AI-driven weapons. Countries like Poland, Qatar, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan are among the buyers.
BROOKINGS How countries are leveraging computing power to achieve their national artificial intelligence strategies: The US and China are head to head in the race for technological dominance. While both nations excel in investments, China could have the edge over the US due to the size of its population. Among other leading tech nations like Great Britain, Japan, France, and Germany, Great Britain is likeliest to challenge China and the US.
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Healthcare: AI shows promising results but fails to live up to the expectations
✨ AI-fuelled breakthroughs in medical research have excited healthcare community members for years. The application of AI models in healthcare seems highly effective, as AI exceeds humans at pattern recognition. The ability to master specific patterns enables AI systems to recognize skin cancers from pictures or identify suitable molecules searching for new drugs. Famously, the antibiotic halicin was detected by an AI system targeting a specific bacterium that seemed to be drug-resistant. Every year, over 700.000 people die of drug-resistant bacteria, which could grow to 10 million by 2050. So, finding new effective drugs is quite a big deal, and AI could guide the way.
👩⚕️ AI’s pattern recognition power can fundamentally change the way health practitioners and researchers operate. An AI system has predicted almost the exact structure of the Omikron variant. Unsurprisingly, BioNTech, the German company behind the leading Covid-19 vaccine, teamed up with the AI startup InstaDeep. The startup offers software that can monitor and predict changes of variants nearly in real-time. BioNTech’s CEO Ugur Sahin explains the implications of such technological innovations: “Early flagging of potential high-risk variants could be an effective tool to alert researchers, vaccine developers, health authorities and policymakers, providing more time to respond to new variants of concern.”
😷 While there are optimistic signs within the medical community and researchers report that AI is fundamentally changing their work, it is too soon to believe the hype. A recent report by the British Alan Turing Institute took a closer look at the studies focusing on the effects of AI on pandemic management, and the results were rather disappointing. Algorithms attempting to predict infection spread and symptoms failed to deliver valuable information. A crucial issue is the availability and quality of health data, discriminating against certain groups. Visar Berisha, associate professor at the University of Arizona, warns: “The community fools [itself] into thinking we’re developing models that work much better than they actually do.”
🤷 AI has already started to change the medical sector in various ways and is likely to impact diagnostics and research. Even ideas that sound like sci-fi at the moment — like the AI-driven neurocomputer in your brain — are gaining popularity. However, the future is not here yet. But the new medical era of AI could be just around the corner.
Study of the week: There is an ‘optimism gap’ between highly economically developed and less developed nations
A recent study by the World Economic Forum indicates that highly developed and less developed countries differ in their perception of AI.
Roughly 80% of the respondents in China and Saudi Arabia believe that AI will change their daily lives in the future, while less than half of the people in France, Canada, Great Britain, the US, and Germany do.
76% in Saudi Arabia and 70% in Peru believe that AI will have more benefits than drawbacks, while only 31% in France, 32% in Canada, and 35% in the US agree with this view.
The optimism varies across different segments of daily life: People are most optimistic about AI changing education, entertainment, transportation, and the home for the better. They are a lot less confident about the impact of AI on their legal rights and freedom.
Recommendation of the week: Professor S. Craig Watkins on AI and the future of racial injustice
In December, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hosted a TEDx event where experts get to share innovative ideas and perspectives. The event's theme was “the good and bad of computing,” and the first talks are already online. Watch professor S. Craig Watkins talk about the dangers of AI reinforcing (racial) stereotypes and how AI systems could become fairer: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Racial Justice | S. Craig Watkins | TEDxMIT - YouTube