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AI Can't Cure COVID-19 Featured

With the coronavirus now spreading fast across countries, many people are looking for information on how to approach it. This involves finding out what works and what does not. With such a need for information, disinformation is also spreading across borders more than ever before. One of the most recent disinformation is that artificial intelligence can cure COVID-19. Such kind of information circulating online is not only misleading but is dangerous as well. With the increase in the number of social media users and platforms, such mis/disinformation can reach millions of people within a short time.

While artificial intelligence has helped the management of the coronavirus in different ways, the truth that everyone needs to know is that it does not cure the disease. However, many articles have been written claiming that AI can cure the coronavirus. As opposed to curing the virus, AI is useful in searching for possible treatments. In China, hospitals began using new AI-based methods to screen the disease. The method included chest CTs using three-dimensional scans of lungs that are then analyzed with AI systems. By analyzing thousands of images, an algorithm would learn how to interpret whether a patient is suffering from pneumonia, COVID-19, or any other form of flu. Similarly, artificial intelligence is used in the US to help in screening people fast and to discern the differences between pneumonia or flu and COVID-19.

The United Nations and World and the World Health Organization also seem to be in support of using AI applications in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. However, they noted that not all AI applications have achieved operational maturity. Accordingly, the reliability of the AI applications depends on the ability of humans to gather the right data and make sense of it. The coronavirus pandemic is a wakeup call on the need to ramp up research on artificial intelligence as it has shown that doing so in the middle of a crisis is not as easy.

Famous AI labs such as Facebook AI Research, OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, and DeepMind have remained relatively silent over the role that AI can play in the fight against the coronavirus. Despite the hype that AI has received in the past, the truth is that it is still in its infancy. Therefore, placing too much hope in it to salvage the situation should not be done since it is no magic bullet. The reason why AI has not had more impact in this fight is that it relies on a vast amount of data that is well labeled to train algorithms. However, there is not enough reliable data out there to do that. Furthermore, building, testing, and deploying AI in the real world takes a lot of time and effort. With the instant changes that have been occasioned by the virus, curating data is not easy. As such, while AI can help combat the virus, it cannot be seen as a solution to everything.

Many professionals had warned of the effects of disinformation in the event of a pandemic. Back in 2015, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates cited disinformation as one of the biggest challenges in case of an epidemic such as the one we are witnessing now. Although what Bill Gates predicted has come to fruition, many people now see him as one of the people who created COVID-19. This is the type of information that is not only misleading but promotes dangerous behavior. Other conspiracies being fueled online is the use of home-made remedies such as ginger, garlic, and bleach-based solutions. Such conspiracy theories have made it harder to discern what is right from wrong.

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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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