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[AY-AY- AI!] WHO releases report on ageism in artificial intelligence for health

The World Health Organization has released a policy brief on ageism in artificial intelligence (AI) for health. The report examines the use AI in medicine and public health for older people, including the conditions in which AI can exacerbate or introduce new forms of ageism. The brief presents legal, non-legal and technical measures that can be used to minimize the risk of ageism in AI and maximize AI’s benefits for older people as these technologies become more commonly used across the world.

Report highlights include:

  • Data sets used to train AI models often exclude older people, who are frequently within a “minority” data set for AI technologies that are not explicitly classified as gerontechnology.
  • The “digital divide” refers to the uneven distribution of access to, use of or effect of information and communication technologies; in the US, for example, older people have a lower rate of technology adoption, with greater disparities for those who are older, less affluent or less educated.
  • The design of an AI technology, including how and who designs it, may also determine whether it encodes ageism; for example, the design teams may not include older people or may not recognize ageist practices or biases that can be emulated and introduced into the technology.
  • Biases can reflect who funds and designs an AI technology, with these technologies often excluding older people from market research, design and testing of the user experience; such exclusion is often due to ageism, and particularly the stereotype that older people are "forgetful, more rigid in thought, less motivated, less dynamic than their younger counterparts, frail, ill, dependent and incompetent."

Suggested solutions include, among others: participatory design of AI technologies by and with older people; age-diverse data science teams; age-inclusive data collection; investments in digital infrastructure and digital literacy for older people and their healthcare providers and caregivers; and robust ethics processes.

To read the WHO news item and download the full report, click here

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