We planned to focus our two-year pilot on AI applications and implications to and for healthcare. The coronavirus pandemic has opened up new and pressing questions about the role of AI during, and in the aftermath of, a public health crisis. The questions raised in the context of the current pandemic are not, for the most part, unique to the pandemic and will inform the broader (AI)² initiative in the future.
AI-based technologies are at the forefront of many efforts by governments to contain, or at least track, the virus. AI-based algorithms are being used in hospitals to optimize resource allocations, in vaccine development, and in the analysis of cell-phone data to trace those who have been in contact with or proximate to individuals diagnosed with the disease. While machine learning can help make pandemic response more efficient and expedite progress toward effective treatments, privacy, equity and related human rights concerns also abound.
It is our hypothesis that responsible development and deployment of AI, taking into account the unique characteristics and concerns of marginalized and vulnerable populations, can contribute to a more effective response and positive resolution of public health crises today and into the future.
To explore this hypothesis, the first phase of the initiative centers around two central questions:
- What should the responsible development and deployment of AI look like in the context of the current public health response? How does that compare with the current reality? What is needed to bridge the gap?
- What lessons are we learning now that are relevant to future public health crises?