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Artificial intelligence and human health
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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Interestingly enough, there's a relationship between the proteomics and the complicated system that I was talking about evolving, which is that if you really had all this proteomic information, it's kind of overwhelming to a human to understand what's going on and what you should do. But if you remember those machines that I wanted to evolve, that's exactly the kind of problem that they would be good at solving. So they would see the human body as the black box and health as the goal state, and they would measure. The proteins would be indicators of what's going on in the box, clues to the state, and then they would reason about what interventions can I do, you know, should I tell this person to exercise a little bit more or drink more water or take a pharmaceutical or cut out a polyp that's growing or... you know, there's interventions. So those would be, like, the switches. And so that intelligence would be exactly the one to help keep the human in the health space. So those two things are not completely unrelated. Also, by the way, the economic one is not completely unrelated to it, either. If you had a system that really did have this more complex, nuanced view of time, you couldn't just write down simple equations to decide how to adjust the money supply or the discount rate or whatever. You would actually need this kind of intelligence to reason about this complexity in order to say what interventions do you make to keep it in a healthy state.

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: George Dyson Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: AI, intelligence, health, economics, interventions

Duration: 1 minute, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017