From healthcare to infrastructure, how AI is changing the world for the better

Over the past few years, our world has faced a series of unprecedented and sometimes deadly challenges, from the covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather conditions, to a simultaneous increase in societal problems, including the aging of the population. population, urban congestion and unequal access to health care.

But as the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications grows, AI technologies play a critical role in addressing the socio-economic and environmental challenges facing the modern world, ultimately helping us to achieve a better standard of living.

Filling in the gaps, providing quality care

One of the most promising applications of AI in recent years has been to increase the number of human workers in key industries that suffer from chronic understaffing, thereby contributing to major breakthroughs in solving social problems. difficult.

In China, for example, the medical system has long struggled with a shortage of health professionals, with an average of just 17.9 physicians per 10,000 people. The situation is even more imbalanced in small towns and rural areas, forcing many patients to travel long distances to towns to access quality medical care and specialized treatment.

Baidu’s Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS) was developed to meet this urgent need. Built on the basis of natural language medical processing and knowledge graph technology, the system provides real-time assistance to physicians, informing their judgments, helping them to recognize symptoms more accurately and offering options for treatment. corresponding treatment. By bringing the expertise and resources of leading medical institutions to local clinics, the system offers patients a quality of treatment that would otherwise be beyond reach. To date, Baidu’s CDSS has been applied in thousands of primary care facilities, and the number is growing rapidly.

“At the diagnostic stage, young doctors can sometimes miss or ignore certain symptoms due to inexperience,” said a doctor from a Beijing hospital who has been using the CDSS for two years. “Thanks to CDSS’s real-time consultation support and alert functions, which provide more suggestions and referrals to physicians, we have been able to significantly improve the quality of our medical service.”

Accessible solutions thanks to humanized technology

By 2022, around 14% of China’s population will be 65 and over, according to forecasts by the China Development Foundation, and that number is expected to rise to over 30% by 2050.

For older populations, AI-powered smart speakers and displays can serve as a vital lifeline. Baidu has developed a popular smart display unit with computer vision capabilities and voice interaction technology, called Xiaodu, which can provide a wide range of essential services, including health counseling, shopping organization and transportation assistance, access to emergency care, and even everyday conversation and emotional support.

Xiaodu’s success made him one of the stars of recent Baidu World, the company’s flagship annual technology conference, which explored how local welfare associations are increasingly distributing Xiaodu facilities to the elderly.

Xiaodu’s popularity among the elderly highlights another key potential of AI: breaking down barriers and inequalities in accessing technology in today’s world. While previous generations saw the elderly deprived of their civil rights by the advent of new technologies, AI offers the possibility of applications that will be accessible to all.

Transform infrastructures, revolutionize society

Beyond targeted problem solving, new developments show how AI has even greater potential to reduce errors and improve the efficiency of the systems that permeate our daily lives, including urban infrastructure in a growing number. of cities.

In Shandong Province of China, Baidu AI Cloud supports power grid safety inspections, providing instant alerts to prevent power outages that could affect millions of people. In Quanzhou, Baidu AI Cloud is used to accurately forecast the water consumption needs of the city’s main wastewater treatment plant for its population of 8 million. The system analyzes a range of factors, from weather to vacation, helping to increase plant efficiency and reduce electricity consumption by 8%.

“We still have to make sure that the system is working and the water quality is stable, but it would be impossible for a worker to stay awake and alert for 24 hours a day, without ever sleeping,” says Shen Peikun, a worker. from Quanzhou. plant. “But now this system can manage the equipment and alert us to sudden changes.”

Baidu’s AI technology has revolutionized one of the most ordinary yet vital features of city life: the traffic light. Intelligent traffic systems can monitor vehicle and pedestrian flows, analyzing a wide range of data to predict future traffic conditions and optimize traffic flow. In northern China’s Baoding City, the use of Baidu’s smart traffic lights reduced wait times by up to 20% during rush hours, saving people more time in their daily life.

With the rapid development of autonomous driving, including Baidu’s Apollo Moon robotic axis unveiled earlier this year, a more comprehensive intelligent traffic infrastructure is taking shape, with each component building on the other to enable safer journeys. and more effective for everyone.

In its research into smart traffic solutions, for example, Baidu found that even a 15% improvement in traffic efficiency correlates with a 2.4% growth in GDP for a given area, as time and resources once trapped in daily inconvenience are freed up to drive economic productivity. In economies looking for new growth levers and competitive advantages, such optimization can provide an invaluable solution. Greater efficiency can also lead to better use of the earth’s resources and reduced carbon emissions.

As AI applications multiply, including in smart cities and autonomous driving, and become more integrated with each other, their potential to unlock positive value and help find solutions to some of the concerns. world’s most urgent social needs will continue to grow.

This content was produced by Baidu. It was not written by the editorial team of the MIT Technology Review.

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