Facial Recognition and the Future of AI in Medicine

DECEMBER 05, 2019

Simon D. Murray, MD: The application of AI to facial recognition is kind of an interesting topic because I hope it doesn't set us back, that issue of people resisting the facial recognition. Yes there’s flaws in it and there's bias in it, but it doesn't mean we should throw the whole thing out. It means we have to get more data. We have to analyze that data and understand where it comes from. You know because there's certain cities in this country that I think banned it altogether, your city.

Eric Daimler, PhD, MS: San Francisco. They’ve banned in certain applications. Both of us may have traveled to Europe a couple of years ago and we saw facial recognition being used for immigration control. You know I was really recently at the Detroit Airport I think maybe even much as six, nine months ago, and Delta Airlines was using facial recognition to confirm the photograph, matched your image, your face matched to that on the passport. It’s really strange because you'd think a person could have done that with roughly the same speed yet Delta Airlines had this and they're rolling it out to more airports now. Facial recognition right before you board and Delta makes no issue about this being somehow experimental, it looks like it's now just part of the background, part of the infrastructure.

Facial recognition has a great place to be in some applications. I don't love it on my phone but it's there and it's working increasingly effectively and now is a little faster. I also think of access control being actually a pretty nice application. So one story that was told to me by this facial recognition company Alcatraz who friends of mine funded in Palo Alto. Alcatraz had a story about deploying this in hospitals where the nurses were exchanging key cards, and that being to get in the supply cabinet or a drug cabinet, even worse, you're exchanging cards maybe for really good reasons but it'd be so much better just to have facial recognition and not to have any potential abuse of the key cards.

SM: What do you think the future is for medicine? In the near future and far future what are the kind of nice things that it can do for us?

ED: The way I invite people to think about this the way I think we started off this conversation getting at which is these evolutionary approaches, which is really how I continue to think of AI as a evolutionist, I guess you know instead of AI as a revolution, this is how often people think of AI. It’s just incremental evolutions of technology, incremental changes in our jobs, incremental improvements in safety ,in in a lot of different domains.

The combination of these can be drastic you know if you have a reservoir behind a dam and it raises just an inch you may not even be able to notice that but the volume of water was immense. So these little changes in a lot of different technologies in our healthcare system could have drastic impacts, but I think little by little is how we're going to see AI begin to influence our lives. We talked a little bit about drug discovery, we're gonna improve data integration, and that's gonna have a really profound effect. We're gonna begin to address some of the issues of privacy, hopefully around health care records, and that will have a profound effect. We will have an increase in in robots that are useful in logistics, useful in the everyday movement of goods in a hospital, that will have profound effects. These literally will save lives going back to our example about the infant mortality if we're able to decrease that by even a little bit lives are saved and this is just information technology at work.

Transcript edited for clarity.

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