Big Data and Artificial Intelligence
What can we expect from Big Data and artificial intelligence? We now have data generated from vast numbers of longitudinal, observational multicenter clinical trials and registries across the world to teach us about disease features, treatment selection, and practice patterns. The information from real-world management of various disease cohorts are fed into robust computer analysis programs to help detect risk factors, clinical features, morbidity and mortality, genetic mutations, treatment choice, timing of therapy, and outcomes. We can drill down to pinpoint individual variations.
Right now, we are in the most advanced age of computers and rapid communication. How do we process all the information, filter out what is most important for our future, and determine how we can direct the course of our health care?
We now acquire information at a head-spinning rate. Since the dawn of civilization until 2003 we had accumulated five exabytes; an exabyte is 1 billion gigabytes, roughly equivalent to the capacity of 5.1 million computer hard drives. By 2010 we were generating five times more than all of civilization prior to 2003—five exabytes--every 2 days. In 2013, the speed was blistering along at five exabytes every 5 minutes.
Over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are now created every single day, and it’s only going to grow. By 2020, it was estimated that 1.7MB of data would be created every second for every person on earth (DOMO.com). Every day in 2021, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are produced by humans and there are 18 zeros in a quintillion, so that’s 2,500,000,000,000,000,000 bytes daily (I mostly worry about backing up my computer). By 2025, there will be 175 zettabytes of data in the global datasphere (Seagate UK). Just because you are reading my essay, I will save you the task of looking this up. A zettabyte is a unit of measurement used by technology professionals and the general public (not often) to describe a computer or other device's storage capacity. The number of bytes is equal to 2 to the 70th power, also expressed as 1 sextillion bytes. One zettabyte is approximately equal to one thousand exabytes or one billion terabytes. Wow.
Some 90% of the world's data has been created in the last two years.
In a perfect world, I would like to have at least a quarter of an exabyte running in a computer sitting right next to me, to help during each one of my examinations, with the hope that my new computer buddy would help me and my patient to instantly find the best possible solution for every one of my patient's problems right down to the molecular level. But life does not always play out like we want. Personalized medicine, however, when fueled by the most robust artificial intelligence, certainly does offer a way to create wonderful advances in our diagnostic and treatment skills.
If you have a smartphone, you have AI in your pocket. AI is impossible to avoid online. And it has already changed everything from how doctors diagnose disease to how you interact with friends or read the news.