Why augmented intelligence is not “artificial” anymore

Not even a mad scientist would propose we replace our human brains with something artificial. But we can augment what our intelligence has to offer with tools outside the brain. Thus, augmented intelligence (AuI) is “designed to enhance human intelligence rather than replace it,” according to Justin Ko, MD, MBA, the chair of the Academy’s Ad Hoc Task Force on Augmented Intelligence (AuI).

Justin Ko, MD, MBA.

Dr. Ko explored the role of AuI in dermatology during Friday’s Plenary (151), emphasizing that specialists can use it to their advantage rather than fearing it will one day replace them.

“I think that we are at the precipice of seeing the beginnings of augmented intelligence tools influence our practice,” Dr. Ko said. “At the outset, it will likely be systems and tools that are aiding in practice management processes and workflows, as well as offering insights and analytics.”

He doesn’t think, however, that full AuI utilization, including augmentation of clinical decision-making, is too far into the future.

“I don’t believe we’re far from seeing the mainstream integration, say, of triage, point-of-care diagnostic support, or chronic disease management capabilities that rely in some part on augmented intelligence models,” he said. “I think the key is that we recognize that this is on the horizon, and that we actively work to shape the development and deployment of these tools in a responsible way that enhances patient care and ensures that patient safety is held paramount.”

AuI, said Dr. Ko, will help to synthesize large amounts of complex data and provide insights into those statistics. It can assume the role of performing mundane tasks that might otherwise cause health care professionals to feel fatigued — not taking the place of the professional, but allowing them to focus primarily on the elements of patient care and interaction that are most fulfilling.

In addition to assuring attendees that they will not be replaced by algorithms, Dr. Ko offered five assertions about AuI and technology. He believes:

  1. The current state of the field presents opportunities for AuI to help dermatology — not hurt it.
  2. Dermatologists should establish and lead the way to guide development and deployment. Technology itself is not the answer, but rather how it’s developed and used to address and solve a problem.
  3. Dermatologists should be aware of the risks and the “dark side” of technology, or the unintended consequences.

“In medicine,” he said, “we have to be especially careful about ensuring that technology is developed and deployed with ensuring patient safety being of paramount importance. Beyond ensuring safety, we also need to be thoughtful and ensure that the deployment and integration of these technologies bridges rather than exacerbates gaps in health equity and inclusivity.”

  1. Dermatologists should recognize the benefits from AuI through a careful, considered approach rather than the oft-cited “move fast and break things” culture of technology.
  2. Ultimately, we want patients to receive better care, and for physicians to be augmented, supported, and ultimately more fulfilled in their ability to provide more humanistic, comprehensive, and personalized care.

Dr. Ko encouraged clinicians to advocate for and collaborate with the development of AuI technology to enhance the specialty.

“It’s an explicit repudiation of the concept of robots taking over human work, and rather sees that the promise of human-centered augmented intelligence is to enable the synergy of man and machine to achieve more than either alone can do,” he said.