AI And Societal Impact – Addressing Large, Complex Unresolved Problems With AI
The idea that AI will conjure up an apocalyptic, robot-ruled future, where mechanical overlords govern humans is an extremely low probability event, even in the very distant future. In fact, not only are AI-driven interventions accelerating business outcomes – AI is also helping nations around the world find new avenues for enabling positive social outcomes for their people.
For all the evolution and development of humanity and technology over the years, our world still faces pressing systemic challenges that affect humanity at a large scale. From our complex and labyrinthine legal systems to the inefficiencies in our healthcare sector, large-scale problems still abound. The need of the hour is to better connect the people with the basic facilities they require. AI may not be a panacea in and of itself, but it offers a huge potential to improve the quality of life of people across the globe. Thankfully, today multiple nations have the intellectual capital – our peers in the software engineering and AI domains – that can bring substantial dividends for the population at large.
In this article, I will attempt to touch upon how AI can be used to address large, complex and unsolved problems and contribute to improving the quality of life for humanity. In keeping with WTISD’s topic for this year – Enabling the Positive Use of AI for All – I’ll share a social perspective on how AI-powered innovations can be hugely transformational to the world:
Improve Access to Healthcare Facilities
Available statistics show that over 45% of WHO Member States report to have less than 1 physician per 1000 people. (World Health Organization recommends a ratio of 1:1000). When you add to that the inequitable spread of doctors across certain countries, we have a poorly served population. While the life expectancy at a global level is 72 years (average across both males and females), the disparity between regions can be startling. For instance, the average in the WHO’s Africa region is a low 61.2 years. By imbibing AI, we can deliver an exponential improvement in health outcomes by improving medical adherence to reduce readmissions, tracking patient medical histories, improving access to physicians, reducing the time spent in clinics and prescribing personalized treatment pathways. Using AI, we can:
- Identify high population density areas that are currently underserved by hospitals. This can provide policymakers with inputs on how they can improve the deployment and availability of doctors, medical equipment and medication
- Leverage early warning signals through alternative mediums such as social media tracking for public health studies to provide guided diagnosis and interventions
- Create a digital record of patients’ medical histories and their clinical notes and use that as a reference for prescribing evidence-based treatment options and developing tailored treatment pathways
- Improve patient medical adherence by identifying individuals without health insurance, providing coverage and incentivizing the use of appropriate medication and treatment
- Speed up routine clinical processes such as scanning and annotating X-Rays and CT-Scans using computer vision and prescribing actions to physicians.
Revamp the Education System
The education system is undeniably critical for shaping future generations. However, both quality of and access to education is incredibly disparate across the developed and developing worlds. Curricula can often be outdated, thus not providing students with the skills they need for their careers. Problems abound in the education sector – from a high level of student dropouts, quality and methodology of teaching and lack of workforce readiness among students. While policymakers mull over how education can be made more contemporary and effective, AI can help provide guided interventions in the field of education by:
- Mapping the aptitude and interest of students in schools and universities with skills that are demanded by the market. This will help provide prescriptive career guidance that will be beneficial to both the employers and the future workforce
- Tracking the demand for skills in the market and the educational infrastructure available to supply those skills, through a Skills Repository. This will help keep education concurrent with current market demands and ensure much better alignment between academia and corporates
- Automate routine, time-consuming tasks – from creating and grading test papers, developing personalized benchmarks for each student, identifying gaps in student development, tracking aptitude and attentiveness within each subject, and enabling teachers to focus on curriculum development, coaching and mentoring, and improving behavioral and personality aspects of students
- Identify potential school and university-level dropouts and their root-causes so educational institutions can take proactive steps to ensure student retention and course completion.
Address Legal and Law Enforcement Challenges
Globally, we face structural issues in areas of law enforcement and jurisprudence. Globally the average police-to-people ratio is 1 police personnel per 604 people, which is lower than the UN recommended standard of 1 per 454. Poor law enforcement eventually lends itself to a high crime rate and an overburdened legal system. AI can be a hugely pertinent gamechanger for global governance systems and help law enforcement officers improve surveillance by augmenting police efforts, automate a variety of routinized legal tasks and improve transparency in governance. By bringing the potential of AI in law enforcement, we can offer:
- Surveillance and identification of wrongdoers; areas recognized for high criminal activity can be done through computer vision
- Review and summary-creation of long drawn cases and their history can be done through natural language processing and voice recognition
- Routing Right-to-Information and governance-related citizen requests through intelligent bots, thus making it more efficient to get critical information
- Employ Anomaly Detection frameworks to surface fraudulent transactions – especially among land deals.
A global population of over 7.7 billion people, distributed across a huge landmass throws up a sizeable challenge when it comes to scalability. With many individual nations crippled by the inability to serve their populations, their public services need technology-centric solutions that are scalable and intelligent at the same time. Artificial intelligence will effectively address a number of these problems which are of socio-economic importance, and will go a long way in improving the quality of life of humanity at large. To enable this, public services need to act sooner rather than later and ramp up their data sets, identify and onboard technology, innovation and research partners for ideating and applying AI techniques that can power humanity’s next big leap.