See what his plans are…

Earlier this year, Russian President, Vladimir Putin said;

‘Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world’.

I thought he might be talking about who corners the market in Almas but no.

To underline the significance of this topic, Alan Schwarzman, founder of private equity house, Blackstone, has gifted $150m to Oxford University, to study its ethics.

Elon Musk, funder of Tesla is very excited. The so-called homeless billionaire Nicholas Berggruen has put his hand in his pocket, as has Pierre Omidyar, founder of E-Bay.

Reid Hoffman is the biggest investor but he’s upset the apple-cart.

The focus of all this attention is not climate change, world famine or pandemics. It is the prospect of machines able to learn by themselves but without the ability to empathise.

Artificial Intelligence.

Anyone with human intelligence will realise there is no such thing as artificial intelligence. Well, not yet.

There is machine learning and that is spooky enough. The thought that we could bung everything we know into a machine, never forget it and make it available to everyone, has a huge impact on what we understand as democracy.

Think about how Google has democratised knowledge. The answers to pretty well everything are a few clicks away and makes the bricks of a Uni look expensive. Teach kids how to research and the world becomes theirs.

This is at the heart of the Reid Hoffman’s dilemma. He wants to create open access to AI, a neural network, the size of the human brain, available to us all. Open-source and ethical. Microsoft are putting in $1bn.

Last week the NHS announced it was stumping up £250m for an AI fund. I have no idea why. It’s a spit in the bucket for investment in AI but would pay for 1,000 nurses.

We have no infrastructure, no access to data, no interoperability, no tech-strategy, skills shortages and even if we had all that, what would we want AI to do?

Robots doing operations… we do that now. It’s called da Vinci.

Machines talking to patients on screen about what’s wrong with them… we do that now. It’s called Babylon.

Outpatient appointments in realtime video … we do that now. It’s called Milton Keynes Hospital.

Most of the useful stuff, if the NHS put its mind to it, we could do now.

We can reduce pressure on GPs with video consultations. I know, it won’t suit everyone, but the ones it will, creates headroom for the one’s that can’t.

Images can be read by machines. Doubtful pictures and sinister ones, flagged up.

Records could be accessed anywhere… no rocket science required.

Apps are available to enable clinicians to consult with each other, inside a secure network.

Patients can be in-charge of their records… they are, in Australia.

Training can be done cheaper and quicker in virtual reality. They do it at Bart’s.

All of this, applied universally, could save millions in money and dare I suggest, perhaps hundreds in lives.

Why don’t we do it?

Because the NHS IT strategy is a confusion. I have no idea what it wants to achieve, or who is going to do it. Structures give autonomy to providers, with no obligation ‘to join in’ or be part of a national imperative.

Once again another kid-on-the-bloc NHSX, is starting again. In the meantime, we lose time, traction and suppliers lose interest.

Who will shout, stop! Pause and start a conversation about doing the basics.

All the time naive people can be dazzled by a shiny-new-thing, people will make shiny-new-things to dazzle them. We don’t have to buy them.

Are we far from AI?

We have; back-propagation, cheaper, more robust computer hardware, monumental leaps in computer vision, natural language processing, machine translation, but no machines that can undertake unsupervised general-learning.

Right now we all know, through neglect, confusion and mismanagement is, NHS IT comes to work on a bike, wearing flared trousers and sporting a mullet.

Where do we go?

Do we scrap everything, make procurement a central function and jump a generation of technologies?

Or, do we try and make the basics work? Interoperability, access and so-on…

… or waste another five years of indecision?

NHSX has some big decisions to make. That’s why I’m looking forward to my date with the boss, Matthew Gould, at the upcoming HealthChat.

I hope to see you there…

Let’s see what his plans are.

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Know something I don’t – email me in confidence.

Reproduced at by kind permission of Roy Lilley.