What’s artificial intelligence got to do with it?

By Grainne Maguire, Director, London, UK

Artificial intelligence (AI) and what it will mean for mankind is a hot topic in the media now. We are, we are told, at the beginning of the next wave of an industrial revolution, the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and this time, the wave is being driven by AI. While Elon Musk said that AI ‘is a fundamental risk’  to human civilisation and the late Stephen Hawking warned against the dangers of it replacing humans, there isn’t any doubt that AI is here to stay. We already use AI and machine-learning technologies in everyday life, whether it’s setting prices on Amazon, tracking your Deliveroo order to your door, or receiving recommendations for music you like on Spotify.

AI in Healthcare

What I’m intrigued by, however, is what is happening on the health front and what can be achieved there. The adoption of AI in healthcare is growing. Predictions from the new report Worldwide Health Industry 2018 Predictions, from research and consulting firm IDC Health Insights, say that ‘by 2021, 20 percent of healthcare and 40 percent of life science organisations will have achieved 15 to 20 percent productivity gains through the adoption of cognitive/AI technology.’ For the healthcare systems and patients, that must be a good thing, leading to improved care for patients and a more sustainable future. AI tools are already in use in major disease areas e.g. in cancer-analysing clinical images to identify skin cancer subtypes, and an AI system for neurology used to restore the control of movement in patients with quadriplegia. Researchers have also used machine learning to identify how individual stroke patients might respond to different medications based on the unique structure of their brain!

There’s no doubt that AI can do seriously impressive stuff and it’s no surprise that Google, Microsoft and IBM have recently moved into the AI healthcare space with Apple and Amazon expected to follow suit. But for most of us AI is an enigma and we need more understanding of this emerging technology and how it impacts our health and wellbeing. Hopefully, if it’s handled right, AI will bring substantial benefits in managing our health without risk to our independence, and certainly we need help in collating those mountains of data!

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