Articles  |  ,   |  June 22, 2020

Artificial intelligence in a crisis needs ethics with urgency

Article by Asaf Tzachor, Jess Whittlestone, Lalitha Sundaram and Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh.
Published in Nature Machine Intelligence.


Artificial intelligence tools can help save lives in a pandemic. However, the need to implement technological solutions rapidly raises challenging ethical issues. We need new approaches for ethics with urgency, to ensure AI can be safely and beneficially used in the COVID-19 response and beyond.

The novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is the largest global crisis in a generation, hitting the world at a time when artificial intelligence (AI) is showing potential for widespread real-world application. We are currently seeing a rapid increase in proposals for how AI can be used in many stages of pandemic prevention and response. AI can aid in detecting, understanding and predicting the spread of disease, which can provide early warning signs and inform effective interventions. AI may improve the medical response to the pandemic in several ways: supporting physicians by automating aspects of diagnosis, prioritizing healthcare resources, and improving vaccine and drug development. AI also has potential applications beyond immediate response, such as in combating online misinformation about COVID-19. [ . . . ]