Evolutionary AI in the service of COVID-19 response – What’s Next?



AI should not be compared with the impossible. It’s very important for us to set the baseline correctly. So our expectation should not be that AI would magically come out of thin air and solve the pandemic problem superfast before we have the data to analyze. AI is not a fortune-teller. AI is just a set of tools. — Babak Hodjat (VP Evolutionary AI, Cognizant)

Tech 2025’s commitment to continuous learning also means that we follow-up on topics we’ve covered recently. And by far the overall topic of the year is COVID-19.

On June 4, Tech 2025’s Charlie Oliver posed an important question to two industry AI experts at a virtual panel event co-hosted by Tech 2025 and AI/Blockchain accelerator, Lair EastReality Check: Why AI Has Failed to Live Up to Its Hype in this Pandemic and What Companies Should Learn from This.  You can listen to a replay of the podcast here or via the player below:

AI Entrepreneur, vascular surgeon and founder of ManXmachina, Dr. Alexandros Louizos, noted that,

“We might have been a bit hyped about how far we were going to get by 2020 in terms of AI, but it’s growing exponentially. What’s super important is that, because it’s growing in such an exponential way, in the next ten years are going to be amazing and disrupting. So what we need are people from every point of view like the ethical, the emotional part, the legal part, the explanation part — we need to start discussing more and having lots of people participating and paving the way forward. Humanity as a whole always knows better rather than a few technical people developing the way forward. So, participate!”

Babak Hodjat, VP of Evolutionary AI at Cognizant

Dr. Babak Hodjat, founder of Sentient AI and the Vice President of Evolutionary AI at Cognizant, noted that:

  • Classical AI, which ‘learns by example’, is set up for failure when a novel virus which has no training data is the problem at hand
  • In contrast, Evolutionary AI can test multiple scenarios simultaneously, cast a wider net over a range of medical, demographic, economic, and survey data to provide a range of policy outcomes based on rapidly growing ‘training’ sets
  • AI will take a larger role in the coming months as find our way with policy, medical, epidemiology, and supply chain impacted by the COVID-19 persistence in the face of the new normal

As a follow on to this, we wanted to show you how Babak and his team have progressed in analyzing COVID-19 data and how they put this in the broader context of policy making and Evolutionary AI’s ability to analyze a range of options that would overwhelm the resources of a traditional data science approach (Optimizing COVID-19 Interventions with Evolutionary AI) .

The video explains in detail Cognizant’s approach:  “Authorities have been responding in a variety of ways to the COVID-19 crisis. Many different non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) have been implemented at different stages of the pandemic and in different contexts. However, there is little experience or guidance on how well they work, and computational modeling has therefore become a crucial tool for making informed decisions on how to prevent the spread of the disease, as well as how to restart the economy.

Babak and his CTO, Risto Miikulainen, talk about this on a recent episode of The Pulse of AI podcast: People Have Asked “Where is AI in the Fight against Covid”? Cognizant has an Answer

In my own experience bringing AI to market, the importance of this topic is off the scale and the complexity of information and variety of stakeholders that need optimization is unprecedented. Evolutionary AI has the ability to cut through the massive number of combinations and ideas and present its recommendations in easily-understandable form.

We at Tech 2025 are looking forward to seeing AI’s potential recognized and valued by policy makers in the coming quarters.

James Jeude is Principal - Strategy & Consulting at Tech 2025.

His career has covered a range of technology-fueled business experiences from large-scale line-of-business management (3,000+ headcount), building and operating a business strategy team, integrating digital signals and experiences into an analytically-driven experience environment, and understanding social and regulatory impact of artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision making.

His most recent work at Cognizant, one of the world’s largest global systems integrators, covered healthcare analytics, strategy, technology alliances, and business operations. He has also worked in business information (Dun & Bradstreet, INQVIA IMS Health, Import.io), search engine and language processing (IACI/Ask.com), and manufacturing and supply chain (Boeing). James lives in New Jersey with his wife, his Ford Mustang, and a room full of musical instruments and electronics.

To learn more about how we can help your innovation initiatives, contact James on LinkedIn or email him directly at james.jeude[at]tech2025.com.

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