Though it is becoming increasingly difficult to do it, I do try to find positive technology news to share with you. Given all the doom and gloom surrounding artificial intelligence lately (for good reason!) it seems rare to find a silver lining to the black cloud hovering over everything else, but like a lone ray of light piercing the foreboding dark, comes news of a critical medical discovery made by a team of university researchers and an AI algorithm.
Technology should supplement, not replace, people
In the abstract of the article published to the Nature Chemical Biology journal, the researchers stated it with deceptively terse simplicity:
Here we screened ~7,500 molecules for those that inhibited the growth of A. baumannii in vitro. We trained a neural network with this growth inhibition dataset and performed in silico predictions for structurally new molecules with activity against A. baumannii.Abstract of Deep learning-guided discovery of an antibiotic targeting Acinetobacter baumannii
In case you aren’t a microbiologist with institutional access to Nature’s publications, you can read a nice break-down of the paper from MIT News, but I’ll also give you the shorthand: scientists dumped a bunch of data on a computer program that was told to sift through and look for anything that might work against a drug-resistant strain of bacteria known as A. baumannii. And it found something that has the promise of being highly effective against the deadly bacteria in two hours of analysis (after a lot pre-programming and data gathering).
The most important distinction between the above and the almost carney-like uses of ChatGPT that have been making the news lately is simply this: where we seem to stumble is when we attempt to substitute technology for humans instead of using it to amplify and augment what makes us human. Among the many who are protesting the alarming rise of AI are the ones that corporations seem most eager to replace – the writers, artists and musicians. And not because they are doing a better job of it – quantity and speed do not equal quality – but because at least some part of our society seems willing to accept the slightly off-kilter, lifeless and sometimes completely misinformed AI-generated content because it’s cheap or free. Are we guilty of readily grabbing up what we can get, even if it’s not nearly as good as the “real thing”? At what point would be it be acceptable to get medical counseling from an AI – perhaps when the real thing is only available to those who can afford it?
Image by bamenny from Pixabay