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A Guide to Healthy Skepticism of Artificial Intelligence and Coronavirus


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Queueing up for coronavirus testing.

Various news articles have dramatized the role artificial intelligence is playing in the coronavirus pandemic by overstating what tasks it can perform, inflating its effectiveness and scale, neglecting the level of human involvement, and being careless in consideration of related risks.

Credit: Brookings Institution

The COVID-19 outbreak has spurred considerable news coverage about the ways artificial intelligence (AI) can combat the pandemic's spread. Unfortunately, much of it has failed to be appropriately skeptical about the claims of AI's value. Like many tools, AI has a role to play, but its effect on the outbreak is probably small. While this may change in the future, technologies like data reporting, telemedicine, and conventional diagnostic tools are currently far more impactful than AI.

Still, various news articles have dramatized the role AI is playing in the pandemic by overstating what tasks it can perform, inflating its effectiveness and scale, neglecting the level of human involvement, and being careless in consideration of related risks. In fact, the COVID-19 AI-hype has been diverse enough to cover the greatest hits of exaggerated claims around AI. And so, framed around examples from the COVID-19 outbreak, here are eight considerations for a skeptic's approach to AI claims.

 

From Brookings Institution
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