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Earlier this week Google and Verily Life Sciences shared the latest advance in computer vision to identify signs of heart disease. With an accuracy of 70 percent, early results from the AI trained on retinal scan images from more than 200,000 patients is as precise as methods that require blood tests for cholesterol, said Google Brain product manager Lily Peng.

It’s the latest example of AI being used to tackle the biggest killer in the world: heart disease. It takes more lives than any other cause of death — 800,000 in the United States alone, according to the American Heart Association. To save lives, an AI army is joining the fight.

Corti uses pattern recognition in language to identify heart attack calls to emergency services. In trials being run in Copenhagen now, the AI is able to identify a call in which the victim is having a heart attack 95 percent of the time, or more than 20 percent more often than trained human emergency operators.

Working with General Electric Healthcare, Arterys uses the cloud and MRI scans to create multidimensional images of blood flow through the heart in 15 minutes. There’s also HeartFlow, which makes detailed images with CT scans, an approach that can reduce the need for angiograms and lower healthcare costs.

All of these solutions are designed to improve detection or save time, increasing the likelihood of survival from cardiovascular disease or a heart attack.

Taken together, AI applied to matters of the heart is shaping up to be one of the clearest cut examples of AI being used to improve the lives of human beings. That’s not just terribly poetic irony, it also represents an instance of AI in which machines seem to routinely outperform humans.

The advancement of AI to solve problems of the heart also reflects the duality of this technology.

As recent deepfakes drama and a report from a number of experts from earlier this week makes clear, malicious applications of AI can threaten human values of equality, freedom, and even our collective sense of reality.

One of the recommendations of the report from EFF, OpenAI, and other reputable organizations is that people recognize the good and bad ways AI can be used. For professionals in the field, the report argues, this is important for creating common standards, finding ways to evaluate potential malicious applications of AI, and educating policymakers. Acknowledgement of this duality is good advice for the rest of the world too in order to ensure you’re getting a more complete picture of how AI is changing lives.

So next time you hear someone reference our inevitable slip into dystopia where we will bow to our robot overlords, talk to them about the heart. As challenging as it is to do so in a world full of filter bubbles, you have to acknowledge these perpendicular trends. To truly grasp their impact, they deserve to be considered alongside one another.

Thanks for reading,

Khari Johnson
AI Staff Writer

P.S. Enjoy this conversation about issues facing AI as a field featuring astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about how his view of AI has changed over time.

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