Cure cancer with artificial intelligence?
In recent times we are witnessing an almost exponential increase in real or slightly fictitious applications of what has come to be called artificial intelligence. But what is this?
If we open one of those fashionable “smart” chat rooms and ask him the same question, he answers: “Artificial intelligence (AI) is a discipline that tries to build computer systems capable of performing tasks that currently require human intelligence, That includes intelligent decision making, natural language processing, image and video analysis, machine learning, and planning.”
But if we go to the news with hundreds of media bombarding us, we can read everything: “The cure for Alzheimer’s through AI”, “the creation of the best poems using AI”, “a perfect novel written entirely by an AI” and thus the trickle of inaccuracies approaches an insufferable infinity of scandalous misunderstandings.
The development of AI has indeed been spectacular. As the mathematician and cybersecurity expert Miguel Camacho tells me, “we will see incredible things in the coming times.” Another scientific friend, the astrophysicist David Barrados-Navascués, manifests himself along the same lines and is committed to the limitless creativity that AI can have.
I am not so optimistic.
According to the AI itself, its thing is to speed up tasks, refine processing to reach more optimal decision-making and, along the way, learn. The same thing that happened with the advent of calculators and then computers is now happening at a higher level. That is learning automatism and speed.
With this, we are witnessing an interesting escalation, previously only dreamed of, of interaction and data analysis with its subsequent results. But, it is that: massive data analysis and evolution to arrive at mathematically perfect conclusions.
That is when I ask: Who generates the data? How do you get to them?
Since the last century, we have been accumulating various measurements, diverse experimental data, billions – and I fall short – of numbers that refer to environmental variables, the energy released or absorbed, genes that are expressed or repressed, proteins that are activated or inactivated, frequencies of occurrence of atmospheric events and the list could be endless. This data now has a second life when analyzed with the computing power of the 21st century.
Then, unsuspected correlations appear, unexpected associations, and conclusions that exceed our limited processing capacity, but it is still a tool to expedite analysis, an evolved calculator capable of connecting far ends, something superficially similar to thinking.
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I do not doubt that the time will come when AI makes us look into holes that we had not noticed. But let’s remember that someone has to generate the data that the AI will analyze, correlate and store for future use. That someone will be a human being helped by the technology created.
In the same way that the microscope helped us to magnify the small and the telescope to bring the far closer, AI allows us to correlate the unsuspected.
It is worrying that every day in the laboratories, places where the data is generated potential scientists appear who only want to be in front of the computer creating or recreating algorithms to carry out massive data analysis. When someone without scientific experience tells me that is their dream, a grimace appears on my face, and a question jumps out of my mouth: Have you ever considered generating this data and then analyzing it?
To eliminate cancer, and with this, we are talking about curing some 200 diseases that share a name but not a last name I am sure that AI will pave the way for us. The evolved analysis of all the available patient data together with their genetic-epigenetic peculiarities and the measurements that have been made will lead us to find new correlations, and they will open unforeseen avenues to explore. But, I insist, the measurements and why they were made are guided by that almost fanciful ability to relate impossible things.
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It is already being to attend the prolegomena of that human creation called AI. I do not question the multiple joys that the speed of computing and the recommendations coming from an AI will give us. However, only humans are still capable of generating the original data, the one that feeds our ally the AI. The experiment is still ours, although, to make it perfect, we let ourselves be helped by what we have created.
I go further, the generation of data is supported by conjecturing and creating a concept, a groundbreaking idea. Einstein’s theory of relativity had in imagining the universe from a ray of light. On a lower level, the fusion of two cells and their role in metastasis occurred when I saw the embrace of two dancers at the Teatro Real. Then came the experiments and measurements.
As for literary creation, it still leaves much to be desired. Unfortunately, horribly written texts are already appearing, with the smell of computer mechanics, which have undoubtedly been generated by AI and later shot by the new Lazarillos de Tormes that flood the networks. It remains in our hands to continue valuing the metaphors, similes, and turns of language that humans are capable of impregnating a text.
Let’s not stop creating concepts and generating data.
When questioning an AI about its potential to cure cancer, she answers us: “Artificial intelligence is used to help doctors diagnose and treat cancer. However, artificial intelligence cannot cure cancer by itself. More research is needed to see if artificial intelligence can help doctors find a cure for cancer.” A clear answer is full of repetitions and little literary style that reinforces everything I have written today.
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