Artificial intelligence in healthcare: More harm than good? You be the judge

Jim Stolze

Tech Entrepeneur and founder of Aigency

Nell (Eleanor) Watson

Tech ethicist, researcher, reformer

Andreas Schneider

Senior Vice President / Global Head of Franchise Marketing Roche Diagnostics

Artificial intelligence in healthcare: More harm than good? You be the judge

20 November 2020

Quick Takes

  • AI in healthcare has the potential to make high quality care more accessible and affordable

  • So what is the path forward? What role should AI play in healthcare? Can we trust it with our lives?

  • Watch the recording of our live debate with AI experts Jim Stolze and Nell Watson to explore these questions and more

The potential and perils of AI in healthcare

Artificial intelligence, or AI. It is perhaps the closest thing we have to magic in the world today, a superpower that can analyze massive amounts of data quickly and accurately. AI could be our loyal companion, helping us on our quest to answer some of our deepest and most perplexing questions. Or could it also become our master, controlling our decisions and actions and stripping us of the very thing it could never have: humanity?

AI in healthcare has the potential to make high quality care more accessible and affordable, and has already proven it can diagnose severe diseases better than medical professionals. So what is the path forward? What role should AI play in healthcare? Can we trust it with our lives? 

A friendly debate to understand both sides of the story 

Our live debate on AI and the future of healthcare brought together two experts to explore these questions and their implications: Jim Stolze, a tech-entrepreneur and a prominent figure in the European startup scene, and Nell Watson, a machine intelligence engineer who stresses the importance of protecting human rights and putting ethics, safety, and the values of human spirit into AI.

The debate was held in several rounds, with both Jim and Nell offering their thoughts and comments on some of the most important questions around the use of AI in healthcare. 

Jim enthusiastically endorsed the potential of AI to improve healthcare. He believes that computer scientists made a mistake calling it “artificial intelligence” because the term perpetuates an “us” versus “them” mentality. Rather, we are the tool makers, and we shouldn’t compete with, but rather work alongside, the machines. They can be our “augmented intelligence,” doing the dirty, repetitive dull heavy lifting for doctors so they can tackle the more human tasks. 

At the same time, Jim urges that, “with big data comes great responsibility”. Ethical values must be built into these systems by design, making a moral compass the heart of the system. 

Nell took a nuanced view, believing in the potential of AI but sounding a note of caution. To be successful, AI needs to be guided. Machines are very good at specific but limited tasks – narrow and deep. Humans will always need to be in the loop, and these tools will need our guidance and oversight. 

Like a young child or a pet, we can socialize the machines and help them understand the world in better ways. It is only the beginning of learning about and deploying these systems, and a little bit of healthy caution is warranted, but amazing opportunities await if we are cautious and careful.

What questions are top of mind for healthcare leaders surrounding AI in healthcare

The debate didn’t stop there. Jim and Nell, guided by Andreas Schneider from Roche, covered many other topics and delved more deeply into some complex, even philosophical, questions, such as:

  • Is artificial intelligence necessary for the personalization of healthcare?
  • Might AI replace doctors? Should it? If so, to what extent? 
  • What kind of international collaboration might be needed to create boundaries for how AI systems should be used?
  • What is the risk of “ethics washing” with regard to AI and machine learning? How can it be avoided? 
  • Are AI systems hackable? How secure should they be? 
  • Will AI make humans less creative? Or more? 
  • Where will we see the biggest impact of AI in healthcare in the next five years? 

Jim’s final statement made a compelling argument that computers can learn characteristics like empathy and kindness with the right inputs. But were these truly his words? Or rather the product of astonishingly advanced AI? 

To find out the answer, and to get a better idea of what today’s tech futurists believe AI, machine learning and the digital revolution may mean for the future of healthcare, take some time and watch the recording of the live debate. 

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Jim Stolze is a tech-entrepreneur and a prominent figure in the European startup scene. In 2009 he was approached by TED.com to become one of their twelve ambassadors worldwide. Between then and 2016 he was the driving force behind TEDxAmsterdam and many other TEDx events in Europe, the Middle East and even the Caribbean. An alumnus from the prestigious Singularity University (California) Jim Stolze is a thoughtleader and changemaker in the field of exponential technologies. Since 2017 Jim focuses on Artificial Intelligence (AI). With his platform Aigency he connects algorithms from PHD’s and startups to data-sets and challenges from big corporates. This initiatieve was labeled by the media as “the world’s first employment agency for artificial intelligence”.

Nell (Eleanor) Watson is a Machine Intelligence engineer who worked to pioneer Deep Machine Vision at her company QuantaCorp, which enables fast and accurate body measurement from just two photos. In sharing her knowledge as AI Faculty at Singularity University and author of Machine Intelligence courseware for O’Reilly Media, she realised the importance of protecting human rights and putting ethics, safety, and the values of human spirit into A.I. Nell serves as Chair & Vice-Chair respectively of the IEEE’s ECPAIS Transparency Experts Focus Group, and P7001 Transparency of Autonomous Systems committee on AI Ethics & Safety, engineering credit score-like mechanisms to safeguard algorithmic trust.

Andreas Schneider has over 15 years of experience in various leadership roles within the Healthcare Industry after co-founding, managing and selling his own IT consultancy company.