Featured Post

Musing on the Interaxon Muse Meditation Headband

"For this calibration, find a comfortable position and take a deep breath". The computer brain interface world is getting int...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ethics boards for Google/Deepmind: The end of computer programming?

Hat tip to the folks on the LinkedIn CAREB group who posted this story from Forbes "Inside Google's Mysterious Ethics Board". OK. Here is my initial impression. The ethics surrounding new technology is becoming as serious as stem cell bioethics. One of the authors of Forbes article also contributes to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology - appropriately.

It was actually an Artificial Intelligence (AI) company that Google bought called Deepmind, that insisted on the technology ethics board as a condition of the sale. More about the founder of that company, Demis Hassabis is interesting to follow. This "technology ethics board" is not, I think, at all the same as an Institutional Review Board, or Research Ethics Board. It is more of an internal ethics review committee, probably examining agile developments of new technology. Might just be corporate whitewash, or it might actually be driven by social and moral responsibility, as well as a dash of liability insurance, to paraphrase the IEET author.

Deepmind, which has the most minimalistic website I have ever seen, is advancing AI into computers that can learn and program themselves. Must be the vanguard to the end of programming, as current Brain research is predicting. Try reading this paper about how Deepmind programmed a computer to win Atari games "Playing Atari with Deep Reinforcement Learning". Understand now why programming might come to an end when computers learn how to program themselves?

What possible relevance could this have for ehealth, as is the primary purpose of this blog? Well, as this article on Recode says about the founder of Deepmind: "(Demis) Hassabis has closely studied how the brain functions — particularly the hippocampus, which is associated with memory — and worked on algorithms that closely model these natural processes." Apparently, the Journal Science says this research was one of the top scientific breakthroughs one year (this from Wikipedia):

Hassabis then left the video game industry, switching to cognitive neuroscience. Working in the field of autobiographical memory and amnesia he authored several influential papers.[14] The paper argued that patients with damage to their hippocampus, known to cause amnesia, were also unable to imagine themselves in new experiences. Importantly this established a link between the constructive process of imagination and the reconstructive process of episodic memory recall. Based on these findings and a follow-up fMRI study,[15] Hassabis developed his ideas into a new theoretical account of the episodic memory system identifying scene construction, the generation and online maintenance of a complex and coherent scene, as a key process underlying both memory recall and imagination.[16] This work was widely covered in the mainstream media[17] and was listed in the top 10 scientific breakthroughs of the year (at number 9) in any field by the journal Science.[1

Still, that really isn't about health informatics really. Sorry. Except if the ethics of new technology in health and medicine is important? There is a real intersection I believe between health informatics and health technology assessment.