In the last few years, advances in artificial intelligence have renewed hope in the capacity of technology to help improve our lives. In particular, the promise of precision healthcare — the ability to deliver the right treatment to the right person at the right time seems ever more attainable. With enough health data, we can train algorithms to make precise medical decisions. Yet my work with the Algorithmic Justice League along with mounting research show that artificial intelligence can be biased if its creators aren’t intentional about gathering inclusive data.
In her talk “His and hers … healthcare,” Dr. Paula Johnson demonstrates the perils of data collection and analysis that ignore sex differences in health care. I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t until 1993 that women were required to be included in clinical trial studies funded by the US government. Even now when women are included in clinical trials, sex differences are often overlooked. By paying attention to these differences, Dr. Johnson’s work advances science and medicine for both men and women. Her talk reminds us to appreciate our differences instead of ignoring them.
As we gather more data from individuals and employ artificial intelligence to make important decisions, we must continue to ask precisely: Who is benefiting? We must be intentional about inclusion. Only then can the benefits of artificial intelligence be equitably distributed within healthcare and beyond.