A number of tech companies and medical and scientific institutions worldwide put their faith into digital technologies - particularly AI - in an attempt to halt a steady increase in the number of people and countries affected by the coronavirus. China’s top tech giants have opened their AI and cloud computing solutions to researchers for free to use the full potential of these technologies to predict the course of disease development and find a vaccine for the virus.
Days before the WHO issued an alert on coronavirus outbreak, a Canadian AI company called BlueDot had already warned of the disease. BlueDot’s AI-powered algorithms process an enormous amount of unstructured data from 100,000 news articles in 65 languages on a daily basis. Its massive pool of data includes animal disease, temperature, and climate information, as well as flight records that all help to predict virus spread patterns.
AI has also joined the quest for a coronavirus cure. According to media reports, a group of researchers used AI to detect an existing drug that might limit the virus’s ability to infect people, whereas another company revealed that its AI algorithms had already designed six new molecules that could prevent the virus from replicating in people’s bodies.
There are also examples of AI being deployed in the form of tiny robots serving food and providing medical help to quarantined people in China or as chatbots that screen individuals and tell them whether they should be evaluated in case of possible infection.
However, AI can disappoint at times. Its superhuman analytical capabilities may stumble upon a series of hurdles ranging from faulty data to external factors not taken into consideration by AI algorithms. For instance, an AI-powered simulation predicted that the coronavirus could infect 2.5 billion people and kill as many as 52.9 million of them on the basis of publicly available data released by China. However, the model does not know every factor, and many conditions, such as the mortality rate tend to continuously change and thus hamper the credibility of the prediction.
Apart from AI, blockchain technology can also contribute to the fight against coronavirus. It can record and track all the donations for the current epidemic and provide transparency to all stakeholders.