Before exploring in more detail what a future of adaptive intelligence in healthcare could look like, let’s take a step back and demystify the concept of artificial intelligence – or AI, as it is often referred to. For many people, AI conjures up futuristic images of humanlike robots. But in reality, AI has been around since the 1950s and is not necessarily linked to robots.
AI is a branch of computer science that encompasses a wide range of methods. The unifying goal is to develop computer programs that mimic human intelligence, ranging from simple pattern recognition all the way to reasoning and problem solving. These programs can be implemented in a robot, as Hollywood has always been eager to show, but they could also run on your smartphone or on any other device.
Another term that you will hear a lot in the context of AI is ‘machine learning’. It is one particular method within the broader field of artificial intelligence. Machine learning helps a computer program to make sense of large amounts of data, learning the patterns that emerge as the program is fed with data over time.
Now if that all sounds a bit abstract, you only need to look around to see how AI is already present in your everyday life. For example, Google uses machine learning to suggest search terms as you type, based on your past searches, what is popular now, or your location1. Similarly, when you browse for movies or a series on Netflix, machine learning algorithms analyze your viewing history and trends across viewers, to provide tailored suggestions2.
What these examples have in common is that AI offers you a helping hand, adapting to your needs and preferences. This is precisely how healthcare can benefit from AI as well.