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AI2 CEO Oren Etzioni discusses the risks and benefits of artificial intelligence. (TEDxSeattle Photo)

Artificial intelligence often raises concerns about privacy, bias and trickery in areas such as facial recognition and deep fake videos. But amidst the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, some technology companies and scientists are looking to AI for a positive impact instead.

“AI and high tech in general have gotten something of a bad rap recently, but this crisis shows how AI can potentially do a world of good,” said Oren Etzioni, CEO of Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) and a University of Washington computer science professor.

Etzioni was speaking on a call Monday organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as part of an announcement of a project called the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset, aka CORD-19.

The initiative, building on AI2’s Semantic Scholar project, uses natural language processing to analyze scientific papers about coronavirus, including the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The goal is to help researchers better analyze and understand a growing set of scholarly articles about coronavirus. As reported by GeekWire on Monday, the technology helps to combat information overload, making it easier for researchers find relevant studies. This could lead to new insights or approaches to address the COVID-19 outbreak.

The White House announced the initiative along with a coalition that includes AI2, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging TechnologyMicrosoft Research, the National Library of Medicine, and Kaggle, the machine learning and data science community owned by Google.

“It’s really all-hands-on-deck on this,” said Eric Horvitz, Microsoft’s chief scientific officer, explaining the company’s motivation for participating. “People from our senior leadership on down to all of our folks deeply care about this issue. It’s an important issue for humankind worldwide.”

On this episode of the Health Tech Podcast, GeekWire’s Alan Boyle, who covered the story, explains the significance of the announcement, and what it could mean in the fight against COVID-19 and future outbreaks.

Listen above or subscribe to GeekWire Health Tech in any podcast app.

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