The Financial Times, September 20th 2020
Opinion | Artificial intelligence
Why AI has disappointed on Covid
BY NATHAN BENAICH
In late February, an artificial intelligence algorithm created by MIT researchers made front-page news for discovering a powerful new antibiotic that could save millions of lives by treating drug-resistant diseases. Yet for many people, what was notable about the moment was that it wasn’t surprising: we have become accustomed to a steady drumbeat of AI breakthroughs.
Just three weeks later, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. Geeks around the world sprang into action. A company called C3.ai compiled data sets for AI researchers to crunch. The AI-first drug discovery company Recursion released a morphological image data set of Covid-19 infected cells as they react to thousands of drugs. DeepMind used its AlphaFold AI system to predict and publish structures associated with coronavirus.
AI seemed on track to crush the new pathogen, just as it mastered the ancient Chinese board game Go. And then — nothing.
At a time when we expect AI to solve most problems — since that has been the industry promise for years — why has it been so ineffective in the fight against the biggest global crisis in a generation?
There are inherent limitations to AI today. […]