AI on the brain

I was reading this article yesterday and one of the sentences jumped out at me: “While it’s tempting to view the study as a competition between human and artificial intelligence, Robert Darnell, director of the NYGC and a lead researcher on the study, says he doesn’t see it that way.”

It’s tempting to view the study as a competition between human and artificial intelligence. If you’ve ever written about AI, you’ve probably made a Skynet joke, and who could blame you? It’s relatable and funny. It gives the reader a general idea of what you’re getting at, but much like that famous episode of Jeopardy! it introduces an element of machine versus human into the conversation, and as the good Dr. Darnell points out above, it’s not necessary to think in those terms.

The headline of the article – “IBM Watson Makes a Treatment Plan for Brain-Cancer Patient in 10 Minutes; Doctors Take 160 Hours” – makes it sound like Jeopardy! isn’t the only stage on which humans can’t keep up. But this is somewhat click-baity, because in the end, Watson’s treatment plan wasn’t the best plan. It arrived at an answer much faster, but it didn’t have the benefit of synthesizing the clinical input that human doctors contributed to the study.

The applications of AI to cancer care do exist – more data about the disease, and how to treat it, accumulates every single day. It benefits doctors to have access to a tool that can help them find relevant information more quickly, or even suggest protocols where appropriate. But don’t look for it to go Skynet.