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Robo-Doctor? In China, it seems Robot Xiao-Yi has passed the written medical licensing exams

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Xiao-Yi (= Little Doctor) Robot [Cr: SCMP]
Robo-Doc will see you?

Maybe, but not just now.

This item popped up from the usual suspect tabloid paper sites while searching on AI and memristors.

I have tracked down a couple of more reputable sources so, here goes from China Daily (which is also on the spot):

>>A robot has passed the written test of China’s national medical licensing examination, an essential entrance exam for doctors, making it the first robot in the world to pass such an exam.

Its developer iFlytek Co Ltd, a leading Chinese artificial intelligence company, said on Thursday that the robot scored 456 points, 96 points higher than the required marks.

The artificial-intelligence-enabled robot can automatically capture and analyze patient information and make initial diagnosis. It will be used to assist doctors to improve efficiency in future treatments, iFlytek said.

This is part of broader efforts by China to accelerate the application of AI in healthcare, consumer electronics, and other industries.

Liu Qingfeng, chairman of iFlytek, said, “We will officially launch the robot in March 2018. It is not meant to replace doctors. Instead, it is to promote better people-machine cooperation so as to boost efficiency.”>>

Futurism dot com adds, on the wider trend:

>>With both governments and private companies intent on putting AI to good use, one of the first fields in which AI technologies are being applied has been medical research and healthcare. Most are familiar with IBM’s Watson, which has made significant headway in AI-assisted cancer diagnosis and in improving patient care in hospitals.

Then there’s Amazon with the Echo and AI-powered virtual assistant Alexa, which has been present in the healthcare field for a while now. Similarly, Google’s DeepMind Health is working on using machine learning to supplement healthcare processes in the United Kingdom.

In the same manner, iFlytek plans to have Xiaoyi assist human doctors in order to improve their efficiency in future treatments.>>

China Daily also notes: “In July, China unveiled a national plan to build a 1 trillion yuan ($152.5 billion) AI core industry by 2030.” Futurism further comments: “China is already a leading contender on the global AI stage, surpassing the United States in AI research, in an ultimate effort to become a frontrunner in AI development by 2030. The country’s determination, driven by the realization that AI is the new battleground for international development, could put the U.S. behind China in this worldwide AI race.”

Colour me just a tad skeptical.

First, back in the 1980’s Japan spent a lot on a fourth [–> fifth, HT DS] generation, AI-intense computer initiative, which long since faltered. This is part of the pattern whereby AI comes and goes in waves, so some healthy balance on that track record will be helpful.

Going further, South China Morning Post clarifies that what we see is that the robot was essentially “fed” with textbook and research data:

>>The first time round in a practice run, Xiaoyi barely scored 100 out of a possible 600 points in China’s medical licensing exam.

It was a disappointing result – the pass mark is 360 – but Xiaoyi then knuckled down, absorbing the contents of dozens of medical textbooks, 2 million medical records, and 400,000 articles to develop the kind of reasoning needed to be a doctor, The Beijing News reported on the weekend.

Xiaoyi took the real test in August and, according to the results released earlier this month, romped it in with a score of 456.

In doing so, Xiaoyi, meaning “Little Doctor”, became the first artificial intelligence robot to pass the exam, taking a fraction of the allowed time to complete the test, according to iFlyTek which developed the machine with Tsinghua University.>>

In short, we have an AI with a robot front end that has been loaded with a knowledge base and likely a heuristic inference engine that references the information base and applies structured

IF

CASE

THEN

OPTIONS,

PREFER/PRIORITISE by

WEIGHTED CRITERIA,

THEN ALSO

CONCLUDE ON ACTIONS

type chained inferential programming.

Yes, that is an achievement.

But it is not the same as creative judgement or even ability to make real world observations, interact with a patient, spot subtle cues and draw well-judged inferences. However, that will be enough, doubtless to serve as a software assistant for a medical practitioner.

No, hype notwithstanding, this is not anywhere near to self-aware, conscious, reasoning, responsible professional judgement and creative intuition.  END

11 Replies to “Robo-Doctor? In China, it seems Robot Xiao-Yi has passed the written medical licensing exams

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Robo-Doctor? In China, it seems Robot Xiao-Yi has passed the written medical licensing exams

  2. 2
    daveS says:

    KF,

    No, hype notwithstanding, this is not anywhere near to self-aware, conscious, reasoning, responsible professional judgement and creative intuition.

    Clearly not, but I don’t really see that it is being hyped as such. Rather, it’s yet another expert system that has achieved a remarkable level of performance, and which likely will be useful at some point.

  3. 3
    daveS says:

    PS One nitpick: I believe it was a “fifth-generation” computing project that Japan launched in the 80s.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, thanks, you are right 5th gen, I forgot. Will fix. I think the hype part starts with dressing up an expert system AI in a cutesie robot body with soulful big eyes. Notice the hands seem non-functional. But then, I guess I would count as likely to make a party go flat. I confess, years later my dad told me how he heard I went to a birthday fete as a teen, and was observed outside, looking up at the constellations. KF

  5. 5
    Nonlin.org says:

    daveS@2

    it’s yet another expert system that has achieved a remarkable level of performance

    The engineers have “achieved a remarkable level of performance”, not the tool.
    Yes, this is the future of medicine. Human ingenuity at work.

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    Nonlin, I actually believe in the software-assisted professional. KF

  7. 7
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Notice the hands seem non-functional.

    Yes, no delicate neurosurgery, or even manual exam for this doctor.

  8. 8
    LocalMinimum says:

    Looks like another “man-in-a-box-with-a-fake-head-on-top” circa 1920, separated by one degree. Or a search engine terminal stuffed into a dummy.

    We’ve got a long way to go, and I don’t see China getting there first the way things are right now. Nations and societies are changing, though.

  9. 9
    daveS says:

    LM,

    We’ve got a long way to go, and I don’t see China getting there first the way things are right now.

    Perhaps some western countries will get there first, but with expat Chinese researchers leading many of the projects.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    With a chain leading back to Beijing

  11. 11
    LocalMinimum says:

    daveS @ 9:

    Oh, definitely a possibility. China lacks not for brainpower, and the discipline they instill in in their academics is excellent. It’s just a bad environment for the non-conformity in thought you need for the sorts of discoveries that make these things happen.

    As China catches up/surpasses/gets a taste for the products of such thinking, they may loosen up a bit and better cater to it and better reap the potential posed by having the most native minds on the planet.

    That or they beat out the US economy/the Dollar finally shatters and they become the patron of choice for foreign minds.

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