Black Box Health and AI’s Applications in Healthcare

By far the greatest danger of artificial intelligence is that people conclude too early that they understand it.
— Eliezer Yudkowsky

I HAVE A VISION of the future which I’d like to share with you. You’ve probably heard of black boxes before because they’re used in planes and other vehicles to monitor everything that happens while they’re in use. When a plane crashes, investigators look for the black box so that they can identify what happened. Similar technologies power telematics devices, which can be installed in cars and used to gain insights into how they’re being driven. Some car insurers now base their customers’ premiums on the data that they receive from the telematics device.

Let’s take a look at the recent Lion Air crash as an example. Flight JT610 was a Boeing 737 which crashed towards the end of October 2018, killing all 1899 people on board. The black box was recovered four days after the plane disappeared from radar, and then divers switched their focus to finding the cockpit voice recorder. The black box is so important that Captain Daniel Putut Kuncoro Adi, the managing director of Lion Group, has refused to offer any possible explanations for the crash until the black box data has been accessed and analyzed, a process which could take three or more months to complete.

As tragic as events like these are, they’re also unavoidable. The whole point of black boxes in the first place is to maintain a record of everything that happens in case of a disaster. And in my vision of the future, we all have black boxes of our own.

As easy as playing with LEGO.

Imagine for a moment if every single human being had a black box of their own. The data that it generated would feed into our healthcare systems and lead to more comprehensive data on every single one of us as individuals, as well as the health of the global population as a whole. Then, when a patient gets sick, has an adverse reaction or even dies because of an illness or a course of treatment, we’ll be able to look at their personal black box and identify what caused it.

Much of my focus in the field of medicine is around the concept of personalized healthcare, in which every single one of us receives tailored suggestions throughout our lives based upon data gathered from wearable devices, our medical histories and the treatment plans and outcomes of other, similar patients.

This idea of each of us having a “black box” that stores all of our data could be brought about by new technologies like blockchain, which have the ability to power decentralized systems that give the data back to the patients themselves and not to whichever electronic health record (EHR) company owns the data. For the future of healthcare to become a reality, we need access to more data and we need it to be fully interoperable. A blockchain-based black box system could be the solution that we’ve all been looking for.