AI Talk: App economy, deepfakes and climate change

Sept. 13, 2019 / By V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD

This week’s AI Talk…

App economy and privacy

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working on legislation which will require health systems to share information with patients through an application program interface (API) with apps on cell phones. This is clearly going to be a game changer, with patients in control of their data without having to rely on EHRs or health systems to access their own information. However, the AMA and AHA have come out against these regulations, stating that once the patient has this data, tech vendors will be able to easily access it and exploit it. It seems to me they are implying that patients (all of us) are incapable of protecting their own information. We can be trusted to protect our financial information but not our health information? Dr. Don Rucker of HHS basically makes the same point in his statement: “All we’re saying is that patients have a right to choose as opposed to the right being denied them by the forces of paternalism.” I for one, cannot wait for these rules to be in place and in practice!

The fight against AI deepfakes

The next battle ground for misinformation is in the area of creating fake videos that are so realistic no one can tell the difference between the real or fake versions! That’s the big fear and Facebook is arming for the fight. How? By creating a multitude of deepfake videos using real actors and releasing them into the research community  to help train the next generation of fake detection models. Facebook is dedicating $10 million to this effort, sponsoring research with academia and sponsoring a deepfake detection challenge. More power to them! The challenge kicks off this fall—not sure if this effort will be in time to root out fakes for the upcoming election.

Infrastructure and climate change

I saw a reference to a new report in MIT Technology Review this week, written by “The Global Commission on Adaptation.” The report argues that if you spend trillions on infrastructure, the payback is four-times as much and results in better climate outcomes to boot. This commission is being led by Bill Gates, among others, and is meant to be a thoughtful response to climate change, with an eye towards influencing decision makers to heed their advice and insights. The spend touches a range of industries—from farming to natural environment, water management to urban renovation, disaster management and others. This appears to be a well-reasoned report with tons of references. There is an interesting reference to Bangladesh, where, with the effective institution of crisis management, the number of deaths from cyclones went from 300,000 in 1970 to 5 in 2019! I guess the implicit message may be to compare those numbers to what is happening in the Bahamas now. Investing in infrastructure helps accelerate adaptation of key systems to climate change, like restoring mangrove forests in coastal areas to protect the coastline. Economic benefits accrue because damages are prevented from happening! Financial reform is needed as well, where effects of climate change are factored into the investments. This report is the result of large numbers of researchers focusing on the climate crisis and the actions that need to be taken. Let’s hope this leads to meaningful action!

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V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD, is an AI Evangelist with four decades of experience in AI and Computer Science research.