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Artificial Intelligence vs. Tuberculosis – Part 2

By SAURABH JHA, MD

This is the part two of a three-part series. Catch up on Part One here.

Clever Hans

Preetham Srinivas, the head of the chest radiograph project in Qure.ai, summoned Bhargava Reddy, Manoj Tadepalli, and Tarun Raj to the meeting room.

“Get ready for an all-nighter, boys,” said Preetham.

Qure’s scientists began investigating the algorithm’s mysteriously high performance on chest radiographs from a new hospital. To recap, the algorithm had an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) of 1 – that’s 100 % on multiple-choice question test.

“Someone leaked the paper to AI,” laughed Manoj.

“It’s an engineering college joke,” explained Bhargava. “It means that you saw the questions before the exam. It happens sometimes in India when rich people buy the exam papers.”

Just because you know the questions doesn’t mean you know the answers. And AI wasn’t rich enough to buy the AUC.

The four lads were school friends from Andhra Pradesh. They had all studied computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), a freaky improbability given that only hundred out of a million aspiring youths are selected to this most coveted discipline in India’s most coveted institute. They had revised for exams together, pulling all-nighters – in working together, they worked harder and made work more fun.

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Artificial Intelligence vs. Tuberculosis, Part 1

By SAURABH JHA, MD

Slumdog TB

No one knows who gave Rahul Roy tuberculosis. Roy’s charmed life as a successful trader involved traveling in his Mercedes C class between his apartment on the plush Nepean Sea Road in South Mumbai and offices in Bombay Stock Exchange. He cared little for Mumbai’s weather. He seldom rolled down his car windows – his ambient atmosphere, optimized for his comfort, rarely changed.

Historically TB, or “consumption” as it was known, was a Bohemian malady; the chronic suffering produced a rhapsody which produced fine art. TB was fashionable in Victorian Britain, in part, because consumption, like aristocracy, was thought to be hereditary. Even after Robert Koch discovered that the cause of TB was a rod-shaped bacterium – Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (MTB), TB had a special status denied to its immoral peer, Syphilis, and unaesthetic cousin, leprosy.

TB became egalitarian in the early twentieth century but retained an aristocratic noblesse oblige. George Orwell may have contracted TB when he voluntarily lived with miners in crowded squalor to understand poverty. Unlike Orwell, Roy had no pretentions of solidarity with poor people. For Roy, there was nothing heroic about getting TB. He was embarrassed not because of TB’s infectivity; TB sanitariums are a thing of the past. TB signaled social class decline. He believed rickshawallahs, not traders, got TB.

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