Artificial Intelligence, Covid19, News, Technology

Together in Arms Against COVID-19: AI and Humanity

Abhinav Raj

Abhinav Raj, Writer

The time is now for AI to take the rein as workforces across the globe isolate to reduce transmission

Since the novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China back in December 2019, it has transgressed international boundaries and infected more than four hundred thousand souls across 197 countries. The virus has brought major economies of the world – including the US, China, India, Japan, the UK and most of the European subcontinent – to a standstill. 

The global response of governmental authorities has been oscillating between variable degrees of deplorable lethargy to calamitously lax. This has taken an exceptional toll in the time of crisis, where every moment determines the fate of millions. 

For weeks, US President Donald Trump has been sporadically downplaying the severity of the pandemic when addressing the public, claiming the apprehensions were exaggerated and has only now come to acknowledge the true debilitating potential of the virus. 

In the hour of global distress, humanity may have discovered an unanticipated ally in AI, to aid them in the war against this new virus.

With humanity on their back foot, is it time to pass the baton to AI to keep the system running?

Despite waxing and waning silver linings amid the pandemic, humanity has had the unwavering backing from artificial intelligence that has assisted the race in forecasting, identifying, and mitigating the impact of the outbreak.

BenevolentAI, a firm headquartered in London, has been utilising its AI platform to index public data in order to find an existing drug fit to treat patients while vaccines are in the works. In this particular instance, the AI recommended the drug used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

Operating on a similar AI drug discovery model, Singapore-based firm Gero has also made ground-breaking progress in reviewing existing drugs. Its AI platform has returned with several promising anti-COVID-19 agents, nine of which have already been tested in clinical trials. Gero’s AI-based drug discovery platform identified molecules that could potentially impede the replication of the coronavirus. Through conventional means, clinical trials would have been set back by a significant amount of valuable time.  

As public service workers are compelled to confine themselves to their homes to flatten the curve of the outbreak, AI and robotics take the reins to keep the system operational in testing times. 

China has employed Terra Drone in lieu of transport employees to transport medical samples and supplies in the midst of the global health emergency. Terra Drone has enabled the transportation of quarantine material remotely and has seamlessly moved the required material between Xinchang County People’s Hospital, Xinchang County Disease Control Centre and another branch of the hospital in Dashijuzhen, Zheijiang.

Foreshadowing outbreaks so outbreaks don’t overshadow our future

A Canadian firm, BlueDot, developed an AI program that forewarned the threat of an outbreak in Wuhan on December 31 only a few hours after the diagnosis of the first cases by local medical authorities. The AI program assisted the firm to predict with a remarkable degree of precision the global spread utilising their proprietary models. 

BlueDot’s AI program anticipated and speculated the dispersion of the disease through anonymous and aggregated data based on flight itineraries and more than a million mobile devices. It then relayed relevant notifications and warnings to the clients the same day. The AI had detected the threat a week before international health organisations made official statements and approximately three months before the WHO characterised the COVID-19 disease as a pandemic.  

While it’s a given that humanity will emerge from the dark days like it always has in the past: a little more resilient, a little more prepared, and a little more hopeful for a better future. The question is: are we ready to make the best of our strengths to overcome the worst?

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