Can AI detect & prevent pandemics in the future? ​

Just as we feel we are a puppet in the hands of forces beyond our control we are also in awe of Man’s powers of futuristic planning with the tremendous gifts of technological advancements. Man may not be an expert at handling the current pandemic but perhaps the invention of Artificial Intelligence by man can lead him to be forearmed in future, not to prevent diseases but to prevent pandemics as well.

As long as the world exists it will be plagued by diseases but with the help of AI perhaps he will not be caught unawares as it was with the coronavirus. Actually our smugness in the face of Nature’s fury was a foregone conclusion as was Man’s failure to handle it but in future our alertness to these things and our humbleness to take appropriate action at the right time using our very own weapon AI might be able to not just contain but prevent future pandemics. So man would do well to cash in on the opportunity and invest further in developing Artificial Intelligence’s potential to thwart epidemics.

It is interesting to note that a Toronto based Start-up Company, Blue Dot had detected the coronavirus with the use of Artificial Intelligence at the same time as the first case was detected in Wuhan and even before China had announced it to the world. Indeed “AI algorithms can help mine through news reports and online content from around the world, helping experts recognise anomalies even before it reaches epidemic proportions.” AI has a huge potential to detect epidemics and this is evident from the fact that Nanox, a med-tech company from Israel has been successful in developing a mobile digital X ray system based on AI software that can diagnose and prevent epidemics. That is indeed a high point in man’s war with the unknown enemy, a potent virus that can result in a pandemic. It is said that the Nanox system “incorporates a vast image database, radiologist matching, diagnostic reviews and annotations, and also assistive artificial intelligence systems, which combine all of the above to arrive at an early diagnosis.” And nations are already on the path of war, preparing to buy these machines
As the Economic Times said, “When it comes to infectious diseases, prevention, surveillance and rapid-response efforts can go a long way toward slowing or stalling outbreaks. When a pandemic such as the recent coronavirus outbreak happens, it can create huge challenges for the government and public health officials to gather information quickly and coordinate a response. In such a situation, artificial intelligence (AI) can play a huge role in predicting an outbreak and also minimising or stalling its spread.”
Today when medical professionals continue to struggle with the pandemic it is a harsh reminder to the world that greater attention to the use of AI would have lightened the load off the healthcare system. The world thus needs to emulate how the Tampa General Hospital in Florida is using a facial scan to detect fever thus lightening the load off humans or how the Sheba Medical Centre in Israel is using AI to predict respiratory failure which is a complication of Covid 19 and thus can save many lives. It is after all up to humans how they can leverage AI to their advantage and it is in the end how humans can feed in data that will determine the results that Machine Learning can provide and hence it is not wrong to say that AI and Man can do wonders in conjunction to prevent future pandemics.
One way in which epidemics can still be prevented from becoming pandemic and reducing the burden on physical hospitals is with the use of AI powered apps on which real doctors can help to conclude whether a person actually needs hospitalization as the MaNaDr in Singapore with monitoring remotely and an ambulance being ordered by the doctor himself in case of respiratory complications arising. Being prepared beforehand can solve most of the problems that the world has been facing during Covid 19 and that is where AI has a major role to play.
AI has had a huge role to play behind the success of the E Commerce business in Today’s world. In fact it is still the business that is standing on its feet in times of lockdown and was quick to get back on its feet after the initial crack. So AI is that dependable and the world needs to realise it and embrace ML specifically for the healthcare system. AI can even find the best treatment strategies using the data provided by humans and help public health schemes to function better by empowering the health departments to handle pandemics as Covid 19 far better and in future stop epidemics from becoming a pandemic.
Looking at it positively the corona outbreak has opened our eyes to the fact that we can utilize AI to combat this pandemic and emerge as winners just as the use of AI has contributed to an upward trending graph in many fields as E Commerce, robotics, drones, surveillance and security systems, Retail, Virtual Assistants and in Supply chain each of which have displayed positive outcomes thus leading to runaway success. AI helps to augment our judgment so that we can make accurate decisions and perhaps it is Man’s mistake that we are not making optimum use of AI.
In healthcare AI can give early warning signals for strokes, or cardiac instability, and will continue to be the biggest boon man has ever experienced even pre-empting man to take measures to combat diseases, natural calamities and even providing AI powered maps to help man.
Even today the pandemic can be helped by the use of AI in detecting and predicting how the virus is travelling so that humanity can check and take appropriate measures. “With rapid detection, continuous sequencing of the genome to detect possible mutations can help with the continued spread of the disease.”
Talking about the future we will be foolish if we fail to take advantage of AI because it can help with development of future vaccines by aiding research and scientists are turning to AI because it can help them to understand how the virus in our present scenario can mutate. It will in future be able to rapidly detect and neutralize the spread of a virus in the human body. Rapid diagnosis, rapid development of the vaccine and rapid treatment besides controlling mass movement of humans by alerting authorities can all be achieved with the use of Artificial Intelligence. It is indeed the best thing to have happened to mankind.

While man was worrying about obesity and diabetes the virus sneaked into the immune system of man showing how unprepared we were to control a disease while concentrating upon nuclear warfare and controlling anti-Governmental activities all of which are also necessary but cannot be concentrated upon ignoring other impending dangers like epidemics that lurk at every corner. The mantra is to be alert to all possibilities and not just our economy or defence or on diseases that may not take pandemic proportions. With more and more use of AI in public health and in scientific research we will be able to see the world much more in control of itself and better coordination amongst nations to control epidemics of the future.