Artificial intelligence (AI) has come a long way since the idea was first thought up in 1935. Back then, Alan Turing was just 22 years old. He sought to build a reputation by outsmarting the world's top mathematicians.
Turing went on to help develop the first modern computer. And he even cracked the encryption of German Enigma machines, which would eventually help end World War II.
He also created the Turing test, an intelligence test for computers that would help lay the groundwork for the future of AI.
Today, we've already seen countless AI chatbots pass the Turing test. Fooling panels of judges into thinking they were human.
But AI is making a bigger impact than just fooling users with chatbots, writing code or solving math problems. It's starting to affect people's health in the real world in a very positive way.
A new study tested the safety of using AI for detecting breast cancer. The results were reported this week in the medical journal, Lancet Oncology.
And the findings are potentially life-changing...
This new study with 80,000 patients was the first big test of AI in real-time medical screenings. Overall, the computer helped the doctors detect about 20% more instances of cancer than two radiologists working alone.
Remarkably, the AI produced the same low rate of false positives. These are test results that wrongly suggest cancer is present when it's not.
The researchers also clearly showed AI can reduce the workload for doctors. The team didn't directly measure saved hours. But they estimate the AI cut reading time by about 44%.
That 44% translated into 36,886 fewer mammogram screenings the physicians had to pore over.
As Dr. Larry Norton, the medical director of Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center said, “That's a big improvement.” He pointed out the medical workforce is stretched thin, and saving doctors' time is vital. Norton stated even if AI isn't more accurate than doctors, “just being as accurate, while faster would still be major progress.”
Detecting cancer earlier has been a goal for AI researchers for decades. Now computers are performing on par with radiologists in tests, a significant step forward for medicine and science.
AI is starting to assist doctors in very practical ways. It's aiding them in finding a terrible disease earlier - breast cancer.
This technology is still new, but it could help doctors use their time more efficiently. And it could potentially catch more cancers at earlier and easier-to-treat stages, leading to more lives saved.
Of course, AI has limitations too. It's important to remember AI is a tool to aid workers. It doesn't replace human knowledge and oversight. Doctors still make the final calls.
There are also wider concerns about how AI affects jobs, privacy, bias, and more. So there needs to be an open discussion about the ethics of the technology. As we use it more in society, we have to consider both the benefits and risks.
Still, this breast cancer trial is an important milestone. The fact that AI performed well is exciting for the field. The technology passed a critical test on a difficult real-world problem. Catching cancer early could let more patients receive life-saving treatment in time.
The researchers plan further trials with more patients over longer periods of time. That will give an even clearer picture of the long-term benefits and limits. Other diseases could someday benefit too if the approach keeps working.
AI has vastly exceeded what Alan Turning ever imagined when he devised the Turing test over 70 years ago. And it’s time to develop a new test given today’s progress.
Director of Technology Investing Research, Money Map Press