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AI and quantum computing are already impacting the life sciences supply chain, and the biggest breakthroughs are still to come. “What is happening is absolutely wild and the question is what won’t be disrupted instead of what will.”

During DayOne’s “Open mic: Next in health series,” four experts discuss how to chart the future of life sciences with AI and quantum, govern the development of advanced technologies, and navigate through the new geopolitical data superpowers.

Humans in the loop and shift to “slow innovation”

Recent developments in generative artificial intelligence (genAI) paired with the increasing power of quantum computing are summing up into a snowball that will accelerate advancements in life sciences and healthcare, driving efficiency and cost-reduction.

Many new possibilities will emerge, but we must know which are beneficial, ethically acceptable, and good for humanity in the long term. With the current approach of “technology first,” we are losing focus on why we are adopting technology. Just because we can leverage technology in certain ways doesn’t mean we always should. Factors such as feasibility, desirability, and value are crucial in determining whether a technological solution should be pursued. Especially since genAI is not a perpetuum mobile, consuming enormous energy and natural resources needed to produce chips.

“When you have a hammer, every problem is a nail. Let’s not follow this approach with AI,” according to Leslie Anne Fendt, Global Program Lead in Digital Health at Roche. Many new technologies are just at the beginning of the innovation funnel, where the hype is highest. We must always consider a continuum of their development and the value proposition they offer in the long term. To enjoy the gains of cutting-edge technologies, we have to start thinking about them outside the short-term bias and balance the immediate profits with far-reaching consequences. The panelists highlighted six basics:

  • Solid legislative framework,
  • Ethical guidelines followed across the industry,
  • Education and workforce preparedness,
  • Self-regulation by industry,
  • Assessment of the impact of AI, quantum & Co. on society and the planet,
  • Smart approaches to implementing new technologies based on the “humans in the loop” and “people-centricity” principles.

In the rush to adopt the latest technology, we must not forget to ask: What problem are we solving? Is this technology the best solution? Often, alternatives might be more effective and cost-efficient despite not being the newest or most hyped technology.

A call for a systematic approach

The advancements in generative AI present a growing gap between what technology can achieve and what is currently permissible in healthcare.

While regulatory bodies are lagging behind the pace of technological revolution, ensuring the safe and effective implementation of AI applications requires a partnership between all stakeholders across the board. It’s not only about adherence to regulations but also strengthening the ethical compass and awareness of the industry to understand and manage the societal impact of technology.

The industry must prioritize solutions safeguarding data integrity and privacy and ensuring that data remains clean, reliable, and adequately protected.

Sustainable technologies are developed carefully in laboratories under the eye of researchers and cooperation with industry. An example is quantum computing. “To create a deep tech, we need to build an ecosystem bringing together all stakeholders,” according to Alexandra Beckstein, CEO and Co-Founder of QAI Ventures. She advocates for public investments to develop deep tech innovations, engage industry, and educate society so everybody knows what AI or quantum can offer. Patients must understand not only how their shared data are utilized but also how they can directly benefit from it.

Matthias Roeser, Partner and Global Leader of Technology at BearingPoint, gave an example of the immediate benefits of genAI for patients. Patients often feel lost when navigating hospital treatments. Interacting seamlessly with such large institutions can be challenging. However, genAI-based chatbots offer a promising solution, serving as an intermediary between the healthcare system and individuals, addressing pertinent questions such as: What are the next steps during my hospitalization? How does treatment X work?

US-China-Europe: Triangle of complementary competencies

Advanced technologies such as AI or quantum are much more than solutions – they drive economic growth, becoming a new superpower of the 21st century. The geopolitical race for dominance in emerging technologies, with a particular focus on quantum computing, is a fact – Iris Grewe, Partner, Regional Leader DACH at BearingPoint, asked who will lead the “AI race.”

The US has a technological advantage; China is leading in scaling, while Europe offers solid know-how rooted in data regulations and cultural attitudes toward data sharing. Paradoxically, the European approach, which centers on data sovereignty and explicit rules – as covered in the EU AI Act recently passed in the European Parliament – can be the best way in the long run. The geographic fragmentation is not in favor of Europe, so collaboration is critical to maintaining competitiveness on a global scale and economic growth over the following decades.

Ultimately, however, it’s not a matter which region—be it the US, Europe, or China—will win. The focus should be on fostering quality, innovation, and collaboration. This is the only way to mitigate AI risks.

Industry’s responsibility for societal impacts of tech

Due to the recent developments of generative AI, automation will embrace low- and high-skilled workers. When AI can take over hard skills, soft skills such as creativity, collaboration, empathy, and communication will be vital for navigating the changing job landscape. Individuals have to adapt to evolving roles in the era of human-machine interaction.

The critical role of education was highlighted many times during the discussion. Knowledge can empower individuals to participate meaningfully in the digital age. If people have the right skills to navigate technological advancements, they will find a way to benefit.

Above education, the experts of the DayOne’s discussion identified a few determinants that foster sustainable AI and quantum:

  • Strategic investments in technology development: Substantial public and private investments are necessary to boost research and innovation. To create an innovation-favorable ecosystem, governments must smartly allocate funding to facilitate cooperation between the life sciences industry, academia, and startups.
  • Openness to collaboration between startups and established industries. Startups often struggle to find industry partners due to the perceived risks and uncertainties associated with emerging technologies.
  • Education to improve acceptance of new technologies. Emerging technologies will be adopted only if understood and trusted. This requires not only solid legislation but also industry self-regulation and a mind-shift towards the transparency of AI models.
  • Market incentives like new reimbursement approaches in healthcare systems promoting value-based healthcare.

Quantum and AI are game-changers we’ve never seen before. They will favor humanity if only we govern their green, transparent, and ethical growth – concluded the panelists.

Did you miss “OPEN MIC Next in Health – Generative AI in Healthcare: Hype or Hope?” Click below to watch the video.