AMIA to Trump: Stay the course on AI investment

The government should build on existing artificial intelligence R&D plans, instead of starting over from scratch, the health informatics group said.
By Mike Miliard
11:07 AM
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The American Medical Informatics Association is calling on the Trump administration to continue with the existing federal strategy for research and development of artificial intelligence, rather than starting over. It's also calling for further investments to study far-reaching societal implication of AI – ethical and legal questions about its impact on humans – rather than just on consumer applications.

WHY IT MATTERS
AMIA's comments are a response to an RFI put out by the administration asking whether the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan of 2016 should be updated.

That Obama-era plan had laid out strategies for federal R&D in AI, with recommendations for an implementation framework and plans to sustain a workforce to do the research.

Subsequently the Trump administration, under the National Science and Technology Council, launched a select committee on AI, designed to coordinating federal research and funding and ensure that the U.S. is at the forefront of its development.

THE LARGER TREND
Administrations have changed and the technology has evolved over the past, but the 2016 plan is still relevant said AMIA, which represents informatics and data science professionals across healthcare.

"The 2016 Plan articulated a vision that must be implemented, and the Select Committee should have a framework to understand how federal investments in AI R&D have aligned with the 2016 Plan since its release, as well as how such investments should be modified moving forward," said AMIA in its comments to the White House.

The informatics group also said federal research do more to learn about potential malicious use of AI. Pointing to a House report from earlier this fall that explored similar areas, it noted that "the possibility that a malicious goal may be built into an AI program, leading it to make subtle undermining decisions is of a different nature and should remain a source of concern."
 
And it encouraged the new Select Committee to focus on workforce development to promote both general-purpose AI experts, and those with specific areas of expertise, such as healthcare, noting that the most fruitful research "will come from those scientists who are knowledgeable in specific domains and are able to make appropriate decisions about how to apply their craft."

AMIA also pointed to separate federal studies – the NIH Data Science Strategic Plan, a JASON report on AI in healthcare from 2017 – as evidence that there could be better coordination among various departments on AI research.

In healthcare, the stakes are high when it comes to how AI will be deployed, and how it will work alongside humans, the group said.

"There is surely no better example of a scientific discipline so enmeshed with and influenced by the human condition," said AMIA. "Questions regarding how clinicians interact with AI or how AI will influence clinical decision-making, represent daunting challenges for which federal R&D funding should be leveraged."

ON THE RECORD
"AMIA believes that when applied to the broad domains of health and healthcare, AI should: facilitate discovery and translation of research findings; deliver insights to improve patient outcomes; manage and prevent disease; reduce clinician and researcher burdens; and increase value (lower costs) associated with the research enterprise and healthcare delivery system," said AMIA in its comments. "However, these goals will not be realized without an educated and trained workforce."

Focus on Artificial Intelligence

In November, we take a deep dive into AI and machine learning.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com