A global early warning center in Berlin will use artificial intelligence to predict the next pandemic. But AI’s already helped us fight COVID-19.

If artificial intelligence is the future, then the future is now. This pandemic has shown us just how fast artificial intelligence (AI) works and what it can do in so many different ways.It may also help us predict the next pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) is setting up a global early warning center for pandemics in Berlin. And it wants the center to utilize the power and speed of AI to analyze health data as they come in from around the world. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in the global systems for pandemic and epidemic intelligence,” said WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in May.Tedros said it was important use AI to analyze the issue from a range of sources and scientific disciplines. “Viruses move fast. But data can move even faster,” he said.

Machines learning from the pandemic we’ve got

Right from the start, AI has helped us learn about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infections.It’s helped scientists analyse the virus’ genetic information — its DNA — at speed. DNA is the stuff that makes the virus, indeed any living thing, what it is. And if you want to defend yourself, you had better know your enemy.AI has also helped scientists understand how fast the virus mutates and helped them develop and test vaccines.We won’t be able to get into all of it — this is just an overview. But let’s start by recapping the basics about AI.

Speed refresher course on AI

An AI is a set of instructions that tells a computer what to do, from recognizing faces in the photo albums on our phones to sifting through huge dumps of data for that proverbial needle in a haystack.


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