Article

  • Machine Learning
  • Artificial intelligence
  • AI

The post-coronavirus era, the era of Artificial Intelligence

18/05/2020 66

We associate Artificial Intelligence with futuristic robots and machines that talk to us, like in the movie “Her.” But AI goes beyond that; it is and should be complementary to humans, not a substitute for them. A tool to help us make our lives easier and that has the capacity to address the urgent challenges that humanity and our planet face.

There are many systems that help us in our everyday lives that we don’t know work thanks to AI; for example, fingerprint and facial identification used to unlock phones, the voice recognition we use in various applications, parking garages and lots that read our license plates so we don’t have to insert the ticket, any photo we take on our phones, or more sophisticated applications, such as in the healthcare sector, that help detect cancer that the human eye cannot.

AI is and should be complementary to humans, not a substitute for them.

During this coronavirus crisis, countries like Taiwan and South Korea have set an example that confirms how Artificial Intelligence is just as important as medicine is, when it comes to stopping a pandemic. In both cases, the application of technology has been a determining factor, containing infections without closing schools in the former and reverting the epidemic in the latter.

Therefore, investing in technology and Artificial Intelligence can help to save lives and the economy, or at least mitigate the damage. Artificial Intelligence is aiding in each of the phases of this pandemic and is proving to be crucial in the fight against the virus. When identifying and preventing future outbreaks, for example, the company BlueDot’s Artificial Intelligence algorithms were able to raise the alarm about the virus in Wuhan, days before it was confirmed by Chinese authorities. Even in the current pandemic situation, AI could help and will help a lot in resolving it.

The proof is in the great strides that are being made in diagnostics. Asian tech giant Alibaba has confirmed that its new Artificial Intelligence system is able to diagnose coronavirus in CT scans, in just 20 seconds. Any traditional method used to analyze the very same CT scans would take approximately 15 minutes and would be less accurate.

Artificial Intelligence is just as important as medicine is, when it comes to stopping a pandemic.

Another one of the systems developed in China is a system that detects people that have high temperatures, without human intervention, and can even recognize if they are wearing a face mask or not. That system can be applied to crowded places, like airports, metro stations, etc.

In terms of research, big technology companies are working on different solutions. For example, Google, through its AI-dedicated company DeepMind, is developing algorithms that predict protein structures and aiding in COVID-19 research.

But one of the challenges where AI is key in the fight against coronavirus is creating predictive or forecasting algorithms for new cases, necessary equipment (masks, respirators, pharmaceuticals, beds, etc.) and therefore be able to optimize resources, movements, and even avoid there being a surplus in one healthcare center and a shortage in another. It can also be applied to the calculation of movement patterns and the detection of future outbreaks, the calculation of risk factors, and a plethora of other possible solutions.

And, of course, AI is being applied to research into the creation of a vaccine, and without it, the time it would take to develop one would be much longer. Recently, Artificial Intelligence was applied in order to decipher the genome of the coronavirus, which has significantly reduced the time it will take to develop the highly awaited vaccine.

In this respect, we at Sherpa.ai put ourselves at the disposition of institutions, to help by successfully applying our knowledge of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. As was confirmed in the press conference held by the Basque Health Department and the Basque Government, we have developed a platform that is able to predict, by territory and very precisely, the number of ICU beds needed for the next seven days, which is how we are assisting the health authorities to prepare the necessary resources at all times.

Maybe we have underestimated the value of technology and Artificial Intelligence, in particular. It is something we have to learn from, and I am convinced that it is going to change.  The SARS-CoV-2 virus has obligated all of us, by force, in a short amount of time, to adapt to what we were going to adapt to over the course of years. Telecommuting and its tools (even leaving already-digital tools like email obsolete, in order to give way to new, more collaborative tools), online education…everything has evolved in a very short amount of time.

Maybe we have underestimated the value of technology and Artificial Intelligence, in particular.

We are facing a change of era, in which technology should be and will be at the service of the people. A new world, where AI will be a medium for making our lives easier, a tool to augment human potential, not take away from it.

In this new landscape, maybe we will also place more value on those “moments” that a “machine” alone cannot create for us and which are, in many cases, those that bring us happiness. Those moments where culture, friends, and family play a fundamental role. No doubt technology will be present, but in a secondary, facilitating role. AI alone cannot bring us happiness, but it will help us in the pursuit.

Normally, these significant changes in our society are associated with an event that is created by human beings, not with an external event. It usually has a specific date that is determined by an innovation or invention, a revolution, a war, or an incident that accelerates change.

It is paradoxical that a biological virus, and not a technological innovation, brings with it a technological change of era. Let’s call it the post-coronavirus era, during which new sectors will emerge, many will be transformed, and others will disappear; but technology, and Artificial Intelligence, especially, are going to take on a much more prominent role in this next version of the world.