AI is not just a sci-fi movie plotline, it could be the future of healthcare, among other things
The words “artificial intelligence” conjure up fear in many people. We’ve all seen the science fiction movies, where the robots develop minds of their own, and then turn on their human creators. While even in this writer’s lifetime, we have seen the advent of many technologies that could never have even been dreamt of decades ago, still, this idea of a rogue robot acting on its own will is as far from reality as unicorns.
Visionaries like Blake Rubin have been clearing the bad name Hollywood has given artificial intelligence, and new fantasies about robots have evolved. These imaginings include machines that cannot just vacuum the floors or do the menial chores that humans dislike, but also crunch data in ways that the human mind and even present-day computers could not their hard drives around.
These computations are not just theoretical mathematic equations like those that scientists spend years trying to decipher — though those types of problems could easily be marked off the “to-do list” of AI machines, the analysis that AI promises could be world changing in innumerable ways.
For starters, AI holds the potential for curing disease. This is not one of those overstated, sensational assertions of hyperbole that pharmaceutical companies or research institutes make and then must temper with disclaimers that the findings are speculative or based on insufficient numbers of study subjects; this is logical projection based on the actual state of AI today.
In May 2018, the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program will embark on a health data collection effort involving more than 1 million participants in the United States who volunteer to input their health data, including genomics, health history, electronic medical records, and lifestyle information, into a massive database that will be available for researchers globally.
This data will comprise the largest health database in history. The studies and possibilities that this data mine represents is mind-boggling. Instead of researchers, doctors and other healthcare practitioners treating diseases based on generalities, eventually they could manage disease treatment based on an individual’s biographic makeup. The results of this effort promise nothing short of being astounding.
The idea of such enormous data sets leads one to wonder how possibly this much big data could be stored, accessed and made useful, and that is where machine learning comes into play. Vibrent Health, the creators of the platform upon which the All of Us study is built have utilized cutting-edge artificial intelligence that learns and sharpens its analytical abilities with each piece of data it ingests.
Just like with humans, but at a much faster rate and with many times more complex data sets than a human mind can handle, artificial intelligence learns about study participants, and each time they or another participants enters data, the app draws correlations, tests theories, streamlines less useful data and offers conclusions. Using parameters programmed into the app, it identifies the most valuable discoveries and imparts them on its human custodians.
This is only one example of how artificial intelligence is not just benign but benevolent. While many decry how technology has robbed society of its humanity, in this case, technology just may save it.