How A.I. Could Shape The Future Of Wellness

mbg Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."

Image by Ivan Gener / Stocksy

Depending on who you're talking to, artificial intelligence is either really exciting or really sinister.

It has the potential to make our cities more livable, our health care system more automated, and our everyday routines more frictionless. But in an age of data breaches, there are concerns about privacy. And if robots and smartphones start doing everything, what will the job market for us humans look like? According to industry insider Jim Buczkowski, the director of electrical and electronics systems research and advanced engineering at Ford, concerns like these are valid.

For Buczkowski, the future of AI machinery ultimately will depend on the people making it. "These systems learn based on the information you give them, so if you give them bad information, they'll learn bad things," he tells mindbodygreen. "That means it's still up to human beings to really manage these systems and have them learn and perform without bias and undue influence."

One thing we probably don't have to worry about, though, is a future where artificial intelligence has somehow outsmarted human intelligence.

"People like to think about artificial intelligence as 'replacing humans,' but our brains are really efficient in so many different ways," Buczkowski says. "Humans already have facial recognition; we listen; we fuse what we hear and what we see to draw conclusions. We are so much more efficient at doing this than machines."

In other words, instead of taking over the world, AI might just make specific pockets of it more seamless. Here are a few snapshots of the healthy, high-tech future we might be in for:

1. Transportation: Cars that can sense your preferences and path.

Buczkowski's team at Ford is starting to incorporate AI across the life cycle of their vehicles, starting from manufacturing. "We're able to use artificial intelligence to train machines to look for blemishes and defects like paint surface scratches and wrinkles in fabrics that shouldn't be there. Those are monotonous jobs for humans, and it's tough for people to do them over and over again consistently," he explains.

Drivers are able to actually see and interact with some of the other AI applications the company is playing with, such as navigation systems that can predict where you might be driving based on the time of day it is and four-wheel drive that automatically employs when temperatures dip below freezing.

These changes are precursors to completely automated vehicles, which Buczkowski says could give drivers of the future more time to unwind and focus on themselves on their commute, if they choose to take it. "As we're driving to work, if we choose to rest and relax that's one thing. If we choose to just extend our days by working longer, I'm not sure that would benefit health and wellness."

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2. Fitness: More personalized recovery options.

We're slowly waking up to the fact that, when it comes to fitness, off days are just as important as on ones. With this in mind, mbg named recovery gadgets as a top wellness trend to watch in 2019. Some of these—like the ones offered at a new fitness concept in California, Upgrade Labs, founded by famed biohacker Dave Asprey, will be powered by a dose of AI. "At Upgrade Labs we are developing a platform of multiple data elements using our proprietary AI engine to determine the optimal activity for you each day based on the actual state of your body," says CEO Marin Tobias. The lab's tech collects data on factors like heart rate and metabolism and uses it to create more tailored workout and recovery plans.

3. Sustainability: Data that can be used to spot pollution and overfishing.

Artificial intelligence can also help organizations track previously murky and unregulated industries. For example, Global Fishing Watch is working with Google and a technology company called Sky Truth to monitor the fishing market using AI and satellite data. The organization collects more than 60 million data points every day in an effort to protect our oceans by identifying illegal activity at sea. It's also offering unrivaled transparency by sharing real-time maps with the public. Meanwhile, Microsoft's AI for Earth platform is working to protect a variety of threatened species and wild lands. So far, it's lent its technology to 202 conservation projects across 57 countries.

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4. Health care: Smart technologies that help diagnose and manage illness.

Boldly proclaiming "the future of health care is here," Hindsait is just one company trying to use AI to improve the medical system. Google DeepMind Health, Bio Beats, and Arterys are also researching how technology and machine learning can help diagnose mental and physical illness quicker, bring health care to low-income areas, and make it easier for doctors to communicate and share patient records securely. GE's Edison platform uses AI to improve image scanning in particular. "Applications built on Edison will include the latest data processing technologies to enable clinicians to make faster, more informed decisions to improve patient outcomes," Kieran Murphy, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, said in a statement.

5. Infrastructure: Cities that are more comfortable and efficient.

Sidewalk Labs, a Google-owned city planning company, wants to leverage data to make our urban spaces more livable and sustainable. It's currently using a futuristic arsenal of services (think: tech that can alert you when nearby parking spots open up and LED streetlights that change based on how many cars are on the road) to construct a smart city in downtown Toronto, called Quayside.

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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