The Science 20 attended the G20 Dialogue on AI on June 1, 2020.
The S20 Digital Revolution Task Force Lead, Dr. Tareq Al-Naffouri, addressed the G20 leaders with a speech regarding the uses for, and challenges associated with artificial intelligence in the COVID-19 pandemic response:
“On behalf of Science 20’s Digital Revolution Task Force, I would like to express our appreciation for inviting us to this timely Dialogue on AI. We welcome this Dialogue and support its goals as it aligns with key goals of the S20’s theme for this year Foresight: Science for Navigating Critical Transitions.
The S20’s priorities are a call to action aimed at maximizing opportunities and minimizing disruption brought about by the fast-evolving and complex socio-technological developments in the health, environment and digital systems.
As we heard today, AI has the potential to assist us in combating COVID-19 in curative research and in diagnosis and treatment. AI can also combat the pandemic in the following ways:
With the assistance of computer vision, authorities can be alerted when lockdown and social distancing guidelines are violated. Researchers are employing AI tools to analyze lockdown-related tweets and using these to paint a sentimental portrait of society.
Given the limited supply of screening tests, AI allows us to prioritize individuals with an increased risk of infection by using parameters such as age, travel history, and health conditions, as well as through employing AI-enabled voice analysis.
The infrastructure and data science expertise required for AI-enabled approaches are not universally available or accessible. In addition, there are widespread barriers to data sharing and governance. This multi-faceted digital divide must be addressed at national and international levels.
Additionally, while AI-enabled tools can help us respond to the current pandemic, the S20 calls for foresight in the surveillance of zoonotic viruses that have the potential to cause the most harm to humanity, and for governments to provide proactive vaccination and treatment to vulnerable communities, in order to intelligently stave off the pandemics of the future.
While AI can accelerate the search for answers to the pandemic, we caution that AI is not a panacea; its use must be properly guided by human expertise and ethical considerations. All AI-based tools must be benchmarked and integrated with scientific checks and clinical trials prior to approval. AI cannot in itself bring about the fast science that the public is demanding; time is needed for the global community to collaborate in accumulating evidence and consensus and in developing well-founded theories.