Man and Machine: The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare, Cybersecurity, and Society

On Oct. 13, 2016, the White House hosted the “White House Frontiers Conference” (#WHFrontiers) on the #FutureofAI.  The White House had also released two reports on artificial intelligence (“AI”) the previous day: (1) Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence on the current state of AI, the existing and potential applications of AI, and the societal and public policy questions relevant to AI, and (2) The National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan for Federally-funded research and development in AI. 

The Future of Artificial Intelligence

As stated in the Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence report, “Future AI systems could perform predictive analytics to anticipate cyberattacks by generating dynamic threat models from available data sources that are voluminous, ever-changing, and often incomplete.”  To this end, a representative from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at the #WHFrontiers conference highlighted the “promise of artificial intelligence” in view of the recent Cyber Grand Challenge

The DARPA representative stated that, with artificial intelligence, cyber-attacks could be addressed in minutes and not hours, days, or months.  Additionally, while a zero-day vulnerability may take a year to fix on the real Internet, such vulnerabilities may be fixed within minutes with AI.  Being able to quickly detect and fix flaws may result in fewer breaches and other security incidents.  This capability is especially important in the healthcare sector, especially since patient safety may hang in the balance (if there is a successful cyber-attack or compromise).

Transforming Lives with AI

Further, there are clear signs that artificial intelligence is going to transform peoples’ lives, careers, and the healthcare sector.  Recently, Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, DeepMind, and Microsoft launched the Partnership on AI “to study and formulate best practices on AI technologies, to advance the public’s understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society.”  Each of these companies already has made great strides in the AI space, such as machine learning, deep learning, and predictive analytics.

Healthcare and AI

In the healthcare sector, the promise of AI is turning into reality.  “60 Minutes” recently highlighted the achievements of IBM Watson in helping patients with their cancer treatments.  By the same token, a Johns Hopkins University (“JHU”) professor at the #WHFrontiers conference highlighted the benefits of electronic health records and health information technology, in terms of the availability of patient data and the “answer” for treating the patient.  The JHU professor stated that the “answer” to treating the patient can be unlocked with machine learning.  Everyone at the #WHFrontiers conference seemed to agree that AI will continue to evolve and revolutionize healthcare, leading to better quality of care and patient outcomes.

The White House’s paper on Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence refers to notional future AI systems as “General AI” that exhibit “apparently intelligent behavior at least as advanced as a person across the full range of cognitive tasks.”  But, private sector experts do not anticipate that “General AI” will be achieved yet for at least decades—from 2030 to centuries from now—according to the paper. 

Society's Role

So, until then, society will witness the remarkable advancements of “Narrow AI,” including its application to the healthcare sector.  At the same time, however, society will also play a major role in terms of how “man and machine” work together (or not) and the ethics and public policy involved.  The healthcare sector, too, needs to be involved in this national (and international) dialogue and take an active role in leading the direction of the future, leveraging innovative technologies such as AI.