Throughout history, the introduction of innovative technologies has always been accompanied by scepticism and scaremongering; Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no exception. Among the many voices speaking out against AI and branding it ‘a fundamental risk to human civilisation’ are highly respected ones such as Elon Musk, Tesla founder and renowned technologist, and Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists. Other voices are rapidly painting a picture of a sci-fi horror film: machines taking our jobs; driverless cars losing control and veering off the road; and AI-powered robots leading a revolution.
Last year, AI unquestionably became the hot topic in technology. Industries across the globe have been considering how they can use AI to improve efficiency and productivity, from city planning to algorithmic trading. Despite these positive efforts, conversations around AI have nevertheless been dominated by negativity.
Consequently, the benefits which AI could bring to our lives have not been fully appreciated. Implemented proactively and responsibly, AI could very feasibly revolutionise our everyday lives for the better.
This year, we should build on the momentum and public attention to focus the debate on AI’s immense potential to contribute to the world economy, and consider what needs to be done for it to unfold over the coming years. According to a PwC report, by 2030 AI will contribute an estimated $15.7 trillion to the world economy.
As the co-founder of a healthtech startup, I believe that AI can benefit our society and improve healthcare for everyone, by providing information and support to patients and doctors alike.The reality is much more achievable and positive than the far-flung notion of robotic doctors. By combining a wealth of medical knowledge with machine learning, it is possible to empower informed decision-making and improve access to high quality healthcare.
For instance, AI can improve healthcare by helping professionals to provide a more personalised service. Whilst humans remain in control of the all-important decision-making process, machines will be tasked with sifting through vast amounts of data to quickly identify symptom patterns and enable early medical intervention. Within healthcare systems, including the NHS, the relentless pressure on GPs and increased waiting times can be relieved by AI, which can take care of time-consuming, repetitive tasks, thereby freeing up doctors to focus on patient care and prevention. In less developed areas of the world, AI can also help address the healthcare shortage, giving individuals in poor, rural areas the same quality care as someone in resource-rich cities and countries.
Furthermore, with the support of AI for more accurate diagnoses, and less time spent on monotonous administrative tasks, clinicians will be able to focus their attentions on better understanding rare diseases, their trigger points, and how to go about preventing and curing them.
Undeniably, it is vital that we develop implementation strategies around AI which put people first. Policy makers and regulators must ensure that any new technology is used responsibly, and in our best interests - for the good of the many.
Whilst there is scepticism around AI, its potential benefits are vast. Using AI to process and analyse large amounts of data can help us to improve efficiency across industries on a never-before-seen level, and in some industries - such as healthcare - the immediate benefits for the public may be more obvious than in others. Of course, it is important to assess and manage risk when introducing any new technology, but in doing so we should not be deterred by the predictable myths and fears. 2018 should be the year we look beyond those fears to the real-world benefits that AI promises to deliver right now.