January 6

Machine Learning Helps Battle Life-Threatening Diseases. Could It End World Hunger, Too?

By Henry Miller

When was the last time you read an online magazine or newspaper, only to find yourself bombarded with shopping ads specifically targeted to your preferences and needs, seemingly by magic? How about the detection of fraud or the filtering of spam from your email inbox? Well, that was most likely the handiwork of “machine learning,” a subset of artificial intelligence that uses computer algorithms that over time and multiple experiences, or iterations, can automatically improve, without being explicitly programmed to do so. It enables the computers to learn without human intervention or assistance and adjust their actions accordingly. This powerful technology has already insinuated itself into many aspects of our lives, often invisibly. And there is much more on the horizon.

Many of us remember Deep Blue, the IBM computer that could play a mean game of chess and  was even able to beat a world champion of the time. It was a precursor of machine learning, as was Watson, another IBM computer that competed against — and defeated — champions of the TV quiz show “Jeopardy.” Named after IBM’s cofounder, Thomas J. Watson, the software that won the million-dollar prize in 2011 was later adapted for other purposes, including decision-making for lung cancer therapy at New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 2013. More recently, a group of MIT researchers reported that machine learning may be useful in diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease and asymptomatic COVID-19 infections, from the sounds that subjects make by speaking or coughing, respectively. Machine learning is also being used to make plant-based “milk” and other foods.

Photo courtesy of blickpixel.

Source: Genetic Literacy Project (link opens in a new window)

artificial intelligence