During the COVID pandemic, there's been a lot of hype about how artificial intelligence (AI) technology would enable society to both manage the spread and targeted economic reopening, as well as help find a vaccine far faster than has been 'normal.' The reality has been a bit more prosaic - while AI has helped in some areas, it hasn't been a substantial game-changer (yet). We're still very early in the pandemic, so it's a bit early to do a post-mortem analysis, but some of the promises clearly won't come true.
Why not? Because fundamentally, AI depends on using LOTS of data, and finding unsuspected patterns and relationships in that data. And we don't have lots of data on pandemic impacts and recovery. That's overly simplified, but it's my best 'layperson's interpretation' - we are essentially trying to build the plane at the same time we are flying it.
That's not to say AI doesn't hold great promise. As we continue to gather data on the pandemic, we will get better and better information and analysis. But, a bit of hubris and understanding is needed to keep the current promise in perspective.
Meanwhile, wash your hands, cover your face, practice social distancing, and stay safe.
In times of peace, every new weapon looks like the end-all-be-all solution until you test it. We haven’t had many giant global emergencies to test our modern AI on. It’s done well with relatively small-scale catastrophes like hurricanes and wildfires, but it’s been relegated to the rear echelon of the pandemic fight because AI simply isn’t mature enough to think outside of the boxes we build it in yet.