Monday, February 18, 2019

rumours of his death are accurately predictions...

Back in the day, legend has it, a newspaper published an obituary of Mark Twain, while he was travelling in England, and he famously quipped "The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated".

What if someone built an AI (ok, ok, machine learning algorithm), that could precisely predict the day of your death; for everyone; to the day. with only the occasional false positive or false negative (for example, due to sudden accident, or sudden unexpected advance in treatment techniques)?

How fanciful is this? 

if you look at actuarial tables, and the error margins, you'd be surprised how accurately they describe expected longevity already, and note that these are typically compiled for purposes like life insurance (i.e. to give risk&therefore  premium rates), and are not using all the detail that they might have (since the risk can be spread over broad groups, even if more precise predictions could be made). When looking after elderly relatives in recent years, these tables have been very useful for planning care costs and have proved (somewhat alarmingly) accurate. 

It is also well known that as you get older, especially in middle age, details of life style+health conditions start to provide ever more precise predictors of how long you will last. However, to date, these systems only make use of a relatively small fraction of personal health data about you. What if we use it all?

Recent work in the Turing looked at predicting when someone would have a subsequent hospital appointment after a visit to A&E (or respectively for elective). Other work looked at morality in certain wards and (more happily) at the predictors of who to release to go home and when with best chances of recovery. These systems have impressive performance (e.g. 98% to the day in some cases).

So imagine at some point (for the sake of argument, lets say if you make it to "majority"/adulthood), it is revealed what date you will live til? What would that do to society? Economics? What about ethics?

I can imagine people "cheating death" the wrong way.
No more health insurance (since there's certainty).
How might people plan funerals?
Many, many perverse incentives, unintended consequences and downright weird stuff.

Much harder than just having slightly better automatic language tools that might make better fake news, but also, much more likely to appear soon.

1 comment:

Simon Leinen said...

I'm sure there are certain wards that need a good look at their morality, but I sense a typo...

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home