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A Hippocratic Oath for your AI doctor

A broad new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) lays out ethical principles for the use of artificial intelligence in medicine.

Why it matters: Health is one of the most promising areas of expansion for AI, and the pandemic only accelerated the adoption of machine learning tools. But adding algorithms to health care will require that AI can follow the most basic rule of human medicine: "Do no harm" — and that won't be simple.


Driving the news: Afternearly two years of consultations by international experts, the WHO report makes the case that the use of AI in medicine offers great promise for both rich and poorer countries, but "only if ethics and human rights are put at the heart of its design, deployment and use," the authors write.

Between the lines: The power of AI in health care is also its peril — the ability to rapidly process vast quantities of data and identify meaningful and actionable patterns far faster than human experts could.

  • When it works, AI holds the promise of helping human clinicians provide better and cheaper care — as in a project that uses AI to rapidly scan for cervical cancer in under-resourced parts of Africa and India.
  • But if something goes wrong, a mistake in a single algorithm risks doing far more widespread harm than any single doctor might do. In a recent study, an algorithm used to identify cases of sepsis was found to miss two-thirds of cases while frequently issuing false alarms.

The big picture: To get the most out of AI in medicine while minimizing harm, the WHO report lays out a kind of "Hippocratic Oath" for artificial practitioners of the medical arts.

  • The principles include that humans — both clinicians and patients — remain the ultimate decision-makers in medicine, AI in health primarily "does no harm" and any recommendations or actions by AI remain transparent and explainable.
  • AI technologies should be clearly accountable for patient outcomes, engineered to be usable to the widest possible population and designed to ensure they actually work in real-world conditions — not just in trials.

The catch: Not unlike the modern Hippocratic Oath — all of 340 words — outlining the principles of responsible AI use in health is a lot easier than putting them into practice.

The bottom line: Few professional relationships require more trust than that between a clinician and their patient, and medical AI still needs to earn that trust.

What to watch at the Olympics today: Gymnastics, golf, 3x3 basketball, swimming

5 events to watch today...

  • 🤸‍♀️ Men’s gymnastics: Team USA’s Sam Mikulak and Brody Malone compete in the individual all-around final. Coverage starts at 6:15 a.m. on Peacock (watch the replay at 8 p.m. ET on NBC)
  • 🏀 3x3 Basketball: The women’s gold medal game between the U.S. and Russia starts at 8:55 a.m. ET on USA Network. Russia and Latvia will play in the men’s final at 9:25 a.m. ET.
  • 🏌️ Men’s golf: Round one tees off at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel or stream on nbcolympics.com.
  • 🏊 Swimming: Men’s 800m freestyle, 200m breaststroke and 100m freestyle finals and women’s 200m butterfly final. Coverage starts at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.
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Female Olympians in Tokyo are rejecting the uniforms that have long defined their sports, highlighting a double standard that exists how women dress in competition vs. men.

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Simone Biles won't defend Olympic title at gymnastics all-around final in Tokyo

U.S. gymnastics great Simone Biles won't defend her Olympic title in the upcoming all-around final as she continues to focus on her mental health, USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday.

After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many. pic.twitter.com/6ILdtSQF7o

— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) July 28, 2021

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Eric Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Georgia congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the insurrection. He said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

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