Could AI have predicted or prevented COVID-19?

Category: AI Blockchain

From stretched health care systems to data privacy, Jessica Walker speaks to Dr. Ben Goertzel from SingularityNET about AI interventions that could prepare us for future global crises


Explore some of his key points below or watch the interview in full on SIGMA TV.

As someone so heavily integrated in the AI space, when we look at this pandemic, could AI at any point have predicted or mitigated some of the risks we’re seeing? 

“There’s a lot that could have been done to mitigate these risks in advance if our resources had been focused on it. One point that strikes me every day when I look at the news is we don’t have any sort of simulation modelling framework to understand the impact of various policies.” 

“We have these huge rules being put into place that are impacting people’s lives tremendously and costing the world economy trillions of dollars, yet these decisions are being made based on either the gut feeling of politicians, well-intended medical professionals or else based on very very simplistic epidemiological models that don’t really take into account most of the particular characteristics of COVID-19 or of the social world today.”

“Companies will focus on what will increase their their bottom line and their market share … then we don’t have a mechanism to funnel resources into application of AI to things that won’t make money or get viewers in the short-term but obviously are highly valuable in the in the medium term”

“If you look at research papers on the SARS virus and other viruses with some similarity to the current COVID-19 virus you find a lot of quite interesting papers connecting how the immune system responds to these viruses with various aspects of the biology of ageing and longevity.

“Traditional Chinese medicine may be helping the elderly Chinese patients to survive the pneumonia better…this is something where we’ve been trying to use AI to understand the complexity of how traditional Chinese medicine operates on the body together with Western medicine.

The pharma industry has been using a little AI but it’s more to figure out how to re purpose currently FDA-approved drugs for other medications, because that’s the quickest way to use AI in the pharma industry to make money.”

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens after this pandemic levels off – will society decide to put a little more energy into preparing for the next global crises or will people completely forget about it?”

There have always been concerns that artificial intelligence might dent the manual labour workforce. Do you think it will change the public’s perception of artificial intelligence if it can fill a void by carrying out jobs such as those on the front-line for healthcare for example?

“I think in in some ancillary ways people are happy now in terms of their practical lives under social isolation. People are happy with automated cash registers at the supermarket, they’re happy with the drones if they can deliver things. 

“When people are trying to avoid close physical contact with other people obviously AI plays a special role and so in some consumer applications people are interacting more with automated systems. The value is being seen very clearly now and the value that would be delivered by slightly more intelligent AI is being seen now in everyday life.”

“I think AI has a huge amount of potential there but the biology and medicine epidemiology industry is not that savvy about AI overall. If they were using an AI integrated throughout their operations I think we wouldn’t have seen nearly the amount of spread that we have so far and quite possibly would be further along the discovery path toward antiviral therapies that would greatly diminish the fatality rate.” 

When it comes to ensuring that the public are staying at home and making sure they’re staying within their time constraints, are we seeing that AI and certain technology is being used by the government to enforce lockdown and quarantine?

“AI is not playing a huge role in enforcing government movement restrictions like stay-at-home or social distancing. 

“Certainly there are advanced technologies in South Korea where everyone has an app on their phone and you’re supposed to put medical information into the app periodically…and the Korean government can then use that to track someone diagnosed with COVID-19. I think that that’s been much more impact-full than any use of AI so far I would say.”

“Certainly a lot of data is being gathered by various nodes and that data is being analysed using machine learning and other actual statistical tools based on the simplicity of the policies that you’re putting into place.

“I know I don’t see any evidence nor have I heard that AI is really being used to pull the strings of all these other rules and regulations. What’s more worrisome is that in the context of this pandemic the groundwork is being laid for much more dark and oppressive potentials in the future, as well as for potentially more rapid and life-saving responses. 

There’s a big worry that under the guise of preparedness for the next stages of the COVID-19 pandemic that the groundwork is being laid for much more invasive future actions by big tech and big government, then indeed the blockchain world and the integration of blockchain in AI has the potential to to solve this problem.” 

WATCH the full video below:

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