Inverse Daily

Why A.I. failed to help doctors during the worst crisis in decades

Plus: Physicists may have discovered a new force of nature.

The medical droids of Star Wars are still far-off fantasy, despite the advancements of artificial in...
Star Wars/Disney

As a co-editor on a report by the Alan Turing Institute that examines how A.I. failed to truly assist doctors during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, data scientist Bilal Mateen saw how artificial intelligence made consistent errors. When given a mix of numerical and image datasets, A.I. couldn’t accurately predict Covid cases among the population.

“I like to think of [A.I.] as one of the many sexy technologies that exist, which is why everyone seems to want a piece of it — it’s very futuristic,” Mateen tells Sarah Wells in today’s lead story. “A.I. doesn’t have the entire context of the person in front of it.”

One of the everlasting truths of A.I. development over the last few decades is that it is very good at narrow tasks and falters when contextual thinking is required.

It’s not uncommon these days to see breathless coverage or discussions online of how such A.I. “doctors” are out-pacing humans when it comes to quick and accurate diagnoses. But while this may be true in some cases, Mateen says the A.I. has some pretty severe limitations.

I’m Nick Lucchesi, and this is Inverse Daily. Keep scrolling to read more about this story and others in this daily dispatch.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Wednesday, September 29, 2021. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox. ✉️

Medical droid remains stuff of fiction because A.I. is still far too narrow in application.

Doctors remain crucial in the era of A.I. Sarah Wells looks into how robots and smart apps are increasingly performing medicine, but this "sexy new technology" may have just as many downsides and benefits:

The ultimate treatment patients receive from human health workers will largely determine their overall health outcomes, say A.I. researchers.

Factoring in contextual details, like a patient's medical history, their insurance, or what kind of support they receive from friends and family, are all things A.I. is not prepared to understand the way a human doctor can.

Read the full story.

Related resources:

Like fridge magnets, high-energy particles generate their own magnetic fields called their “magnetic moment” or “g-factor.”

Physicists may have discovered a new force of nature Scientists found new evidence this year that muons may behave in a way that defies existing physics. Sarah Wells reports that a new, fifth force may cause their magnetism:

In the world of particle physics, you are never alone — quite literally.

Every moment there is an invisible rainstorm of subatomic particles falling on us from space. Unlike the kind of matter we’re used to — which puts up a fight if pushed up against — these tiny particles can sail right through us and straight into the Earth’s core.

As far as physicists know, these particles aren’t causing us any harm or even tickling us as they pass through unnoticed like ghosts. But the strangeness of these particles may hold a secret key to answer the universe’s most persistent questions, like the origin and essence of dark matter.

Read the full story.

More science:

Here’s an image of the comet, captured by the Dark Energy Camera mounted on the Victor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope in Chile.

Dark Energy Survey/DOE/FNAL/DECam/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/P. Bernardinelli & G. Bernstein (UPenn)/DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys

Look up — Jenn Walter reports on a comet called Bernardinelli-Bernstein, for the researchers who spotted it. It’s 1,000 times larger than most comets traveling through our Solar System:

At this very moment, a massive, newly-discovered comet is hurtling toward the inner Solar System. No, it isn’t projected to hit Earth. But the reason why researchers have their eye on it is much more enjoyable. It was spotted during an analysis of images collected by the Dark Energy Survey — a collaborative project funded by global research groups. Its job is to help us better understand the properties of dark energy and universe expansion.

Read the full story.

Related resources:

Sweet economics — Pokémon and Oreo teamed up for some limited-edition cookies, and fans of the series are shelling out thousands to catch 'em all. Bryan Lawver looks into what started the cookie craze:

Slap a Pikachu on pretty much anything, and it’ll sell. But even the biggest Poké-fans may be surprised at the lengths people are going to for an odd new piece of merch.

In mid-September, Oreo debuted its new collaboration with Pokémon: cookies decorated with some of the most popular ‘mons to roughly coincide with the series’ 25th anniversary. Anticipating some of the frenzy to come, Nabisco opened pre-orders for the Pokémon cookies before they showed up in stores.

Read the full story.

Related resources:

Singer Halsey marks a birthday today.

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