UK pledges millions to fund development of cancer-detecting AI
MANILA, Philippines - UK prime minister, Theresa May, in a speech on Monday, May 21, said that she will pledge millions of pounds of government funding to the development of an artificial intelligence (AI) that can detect cancer and chronic disease early.
“Late diagnosis of otherwise treatable illnesses is one of the biggest causes of avoidable deaths,” May said. The Guardian reports that the introduction of an AI could save as many 22,000 lives per year by 2033 and extend life for five more years by 2035.
“The development of smart technologies to analyze great quantities of data quickly and with a higher degree of accuracy than is possible by human beings, opens up a whole new field of medical research and gives us a new weapon in our armory in the fight against disease,” May said.
The AI algorithm is going to be built from the genetic and medical data of National Health Service (NHS) patients in the UK. By cross-referencing all this data, the AI can make an early diagnosis of a person suffering from a possibly fatal disease.
Part of the plan to create the AI involves the government sharing the NHS information to internet companies that analyze data at a large scale.
Consequently, the proposal is being met with mixed reactions as it allows commercial firms access to sensitive NHS data that can be used for profit. May, in January, announced plans for a council on data ethics but according to Engadget, it isn’t likely to stop the abuse of data.
Critics also argue that the NHS, as it currently is, fails to receive enough funding for operation due to increased demand in medical services. They add that investing in new and uncertain technology may not help the situation, considering that people’s lives are on the line.
If successful, the AI could save both manpower and money. Chief executive of Cancer Research UK, Sir Harpal Kumar, is hopeful that it can reduce late diagnosis of cancer by half in the next 15 years.
“Our goal is that three in four people will survive their cancer by 2034 and we support efforts that will help us achieve this ambition,” he added.
If UK's significant pledge bears fruit, the hope is also that the technology they develop will eventually find application in countries beyond their borders.
The government has invested over £1.4 billion pounds in research and development to support the Grand Challenge program which is comprised of artificial intelligence and the data economy; healthy aging; clean growth; and the future of mobility. – Rappler.com