Podcast: The Artificial Intelligence Question

Jack Murtha
DECEMBER 07, 2018

Image has been altered. Courtesy of Atomic Taco.

Artificial intelligence (AI) could revolutionize healthcare or destroy the world, depending on who you ask. Both theories represent extreme futures that appear less likely than a more tempered vision of, say, AI meaningfully changing how healthcare, business and humanity operate. But difficult questions — could AI come to replace doctors? — remain important nonetheless.

On this episode of Data Book, we explore this core question: Will AI grow smarter than humans? The answers are nuanced, and their implications are difficult to pin down. Much of the conversation surrounding this issue is speculation, even among experts. But there are some very interesting ways to examine AI’s progress in this area.

>> LISTEN: Implementing AI Is Simpler Than You Think

How? Games. I’m talking about chess, computer games like StarCraft, the TV show “Jeopardy!” — and so much more. These virtual and physical worlds have captured the attention of AI developers, from Google and IBM to Microsoft, prodding them to test their cutting-edge technologies on the same platforms that we use for fun and leisure.

Of course, AI’s performance in such games does not concretely predict its performance in the real world. That’s true of AI in the clinic, the patient waiting room or even on the battlefield. But the efficacy of AI in games gives us some information to include in discussions and debates that are often only speculative.

So, on this episode of Data Book, we explore perhaps the most famous game ever played by AI: IBM Watson’s 2011 run on “Jeopardy!” Squaring off against the show’s two most noted champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, Watson crushed the competition without mercy. But what did it mean, if anything? Was this victory a mere marketing boost for IBM?

Then we go on to detail how other tech companies are using games to gauge their AI. And no, this isn’t child’s play — when a team of algorithms successfully collaborated in one video game, the famous Bill Gates labeled the victory a “huge milestone” for AI.

As always, this episode doesn’t end with a neat story.

Data Book then welcomes four health-tech KOLs to the show: Kevin Campbell, M.D., a Duke-trained cardiologist and head of the startup PaceMate; Geeta Nayyar, M.D., a physician and chief healthcare and innovation officer of Femwell Group Health; John Nosta, head of NostaLab, a writer for Forbes and a member of Google Health’s advisory board; and David Albert, M.D., a renowned cardiologist and prolific inventor whose most recent venture is AliveCor.

These forward-thinking experts leapfrog to a discussion on AI’s potential, getting at the big questions: Will AI replace doctors? Will it replace all of us?

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