NORA sets Artificial Intelligence in health care on the agenda at Arendalsuka
With an estimated 75.000 visitors, Arendalsuka is by far Norway’s largest political meeting place. In collaboration with University of Agder (UiA), NORA was able to put Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the agenda at Arendalsuka with the seminar Artificial Intelligence in the health sector: Key to a longer life, but…? Minister of Digitalisation Nikolai Astrup was one of the keynote speakers.
Minister for Digitalisation Nikolai Astrup during his keynote at the NORA-seminar. Photo: Anam Javaid
- As a representative of nine of Norway's most important AI research and educational communities, we wanted to put AI on the agenda at Arendalsuka. NORA’s seminar was well-received both by our partners, the speakers and the audience, says NORA’s CEO Klas H. Pettersen.
AI and the health sector
As the name indicates, the topic of the seminar was AI in the health sector. The development and use of AI in the health sector will lead to better diagnosis of diseases, better treatment of patients and a generally higher quality of life in the population. However, NORA wanted to discuss whether Norway will be able to take leadership in this sector from a political, legal and technological perspective.
- AI in health care is of special interest. We are just starting to see the potential use of AI-tools in health care, with huge benefits. AI can lead to a longer and better life. At the same time the need for patient data to train AI-tools raises some fundamental and interesting legal and ethical questions, which require a broad political, legal and technological collaboration. We at NORA wanted to discuss how this can be achieved in Norway. We are very happy that we were able to conduct a successful seminar discussing these important questions, says Pettersen.
The seminar was two-fold. The first part consisted of three keynotes from a political, technological and legal perspective, respectively. The keynotes were followed by a panel discussion. Several leading figures in the field were present at the seminar, including Minister of Digitalisation Nikolai Astrup, research fellow Anne Kjersti Befring (UiO/NORA), associate Professor Eivind Valen (UiB/NORA), professor Kjersti Engan (UiS/NORA), senior scientist Annette F. Stephansen (NORCE/NORA), senior researcher Cecilie Johanne Slokvik Hansen (NORCE/NORA) and CEO Klas H. Pettersen (NORA).
The need for interdisciplinary cooperation
- AI in not important in itself, but important as a tool to improve products and services, said Minister Astrup during his keynote. According to the minister, countries like the US and China have become leading when it comes to consumer-oriented applications of AI. However, Norway has great potential to become leading in industrial use and applications of AI. This however requires the right skills and expertise, according to Astrup.
- Norway is educating more students than ever before in the field of IT. Nevertheless, NORA partners have an important job to do in order to dimension the education to meet the demand in the future, said Astrup. - Interdisciplinary cooperation is as important as cutting edge expertise, because technology will affect all areas of the society. It doesn't matter whether you want to become a nurse or a farmer, you will be affected by technology, continued Astrup.
Making sensitive data available and protecting privacy
Minister Astrup emphasised the ethical dilemmas related to AI. - Basically, it's we humans who have to set the framework for the technology, and not the other way around, said Astrup. Norway has a potential for becoming leading in the field of healthcare and AI because we have many well-structured data registries, such as the Cancer Registry of Norway, with complete data going back to the 1950s. In order to make these health related data available and at the same time protect the privacy of the patients, the government has taken the initiative to establish a health analysis platform. The platform will make it easier for researchers to gain access to relevant data, which in turn hopefully will lead to better medicines, treatment and commercialization of technology, according to the minister.
Research fellow Anne Kjersti Befring elaborated further on the topic of privacy and patient safety. Befring has in recent years amongst other analysed the legal regulation of genetic mapping as one aspect of health care in patient pathways. - We are beyond the point where we can ask whether AI and big data has a place in the health sector. What is important is to use the ground reality in the health sector in order to discuss the technological implications. Personalized or precision medicine through genetic mapping, AI and big data has the potential to save many lives, whether its antibiotic resistance, cancer or other major diseases. We need to take this seriously and organize the work so that we harvest the benefits and at the same time protect ourselves against the negative effects, said Befring.
Associate Professor Eivind Valen talked about the technological part of AI, and especially deep learning. Deep learning is a machine learning method based on artificial neural networks. Deep learning architectures have amongst others applications in the fields of medical image analysis, and have produced results comparable to and in some cases superior to human experts. - I think it’s great that we are getting a humanistic perspective and focus in this field, because there are many ethical and value driven factors that have to be taken into account in the decision making processes. Nevertheless, we are living in very exciting times and we are going to see great progress in this field in the future, said Valen.