The promise and perils of AI in medicine

Robert Sparrow, Joshua Hatherley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


What does Artificial Intelligence (AI) have to contribute to
health care? And what should we be looking out for if we are
worried about its risks? In this paper we offer a survey, and initial
evaluation, of hopes and fears about the applications of artificial
intelligence in medicine. AI clearly has enormous potential as a
research tool, in genomics and public health especially, as well as a
diagnostic aid. It’s also highly likely to impact on the
organisational and business practices of healthcare systems in ways
that are perhaps under-appreciated. Enthusiasts for AI have held
out the prospect that it will free physicians up to spend more time
attending to what really matters to them and their patients. We will
argue that this claim depends upon implausible assumptions about
the institutional and economic imperatives operating in
contemporary healthcare settings. We will also highlight important
concerns about privacy, surveillance, and bias in big data, as well as
the risks of over trust in machines, the challenges of transparency,
the deskilling of healthcare practitioners, the way AI reframes
healthcare, and the implications of AI for the distribution of power
in healthcare institutions. We will suggest that two questions, in
particular, are deserving of further attention from philosophers and
bioethicists. What does care look like when one is dealing with data
as much as people? And, what weight should we give to the advice
of machines in our own deliberations about medical decisions?
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Pages (from-to)79-109
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Chinese & Comparative Philosophy of Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Cite this