Artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare and research

Bioethics Briefing Note

Published 15/05/2018

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What is AI?

There is no universally agreed definition of AI. The term broadly refers to computing technologies that resemble processes associated with human intelligence, such as reasoning, learning and adaptation, sensory understanding, and interaction. Currently, most applications of AI are narrow, in that they are only able to carry out specific tasks or solve pre-defined problems.

AI works in a range of ways, drawing on principles and tools, including from maths, logic, and biology. An important feature of contemporary AI technologies is that they are increasingly able to make sense of varied and unstructured kinds of data, such as natural language text and images. Machine-learning has been the most successful type of AI in recent years, and is the underlying approach of many of the applications currently in use. Rather than following pre-programmed instructions, machine-learning allows systems to discover patterns and derive its own rules when it is presented with data and new experiences.

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