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Machine or master? An eye on AI

“It’s so powerful that if we don’t keep on top of it, artificial intelligence could take over…The more it learns, the faster it learns. It’s exponential”

People talking about AI

The boundless potential of artificial intelligence (AI) was highlighted during presentations at 100% Optical (27–29 January).

Consultant ophthalmologist, John Bolger, emphasised the importance of people engaging with AI, rather than ignoring the advance of the technology.

“It’s not science fiction, it’s here,” he said.

He observed that machine learning has progressed to the point where AI can beat the world master in the ancient Chinese strategic game of Go in a matter of seconds.

Some people are hesitant about the intelligent potential of machines – although this caution does not extend to physical tasks that only machines can accomplish, Mr Bolger shared.

“We have no problem with mechanical advantage. This building could not have been built by human hands alone,” he observed.

“Just like we need forklifts, we need artificial intelligence,” he added.

Mr Bolger highlighted that it is important that the “exponential” potential of AI is harnessed in the right way.

“It’s so powerful that if we don’t keep on top of it, artificial intelligence could take over…The more it learns, the faster it learns,” he emphasised.

Leading academic, Fei-Fei Li has recognised the need to democratise the use of the technology, Mr Bolger added.

“AI shouldn’t just be in the hands of the few,” he said. 

De-risking day-to-day practice

Consultant ophthalmic surgeon at King’s College Hospital and chief medical officer of Visulytix, Sameer Trikha, told 100% Optical attendees that “we are not keeping up” with the increasing global demand for eye care.

He explained that by 2020 it is estimated that 80 million people globally will be living with glaucoma and 196 million will be living with age-related macular degeneration.

Mr Trikha said that AI will allow practitioners to “de-risk day-to-day practice” by recognising eye diseases earlier and treating them quickly.

“In clinical practice, we live on the edge for fear of missing something,” he emphasised, adding that AI presents an opportunity to “redesign the system,” which will lead to better decision-making for patients.

He detailed the types of AI systems that are available and how they work, explaining that the level at which they operate can match that of top experts.