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AI Now Better Than Dermatologists at Detecting Skin Cancer

Even Experts Fared Worse than a Machine Learning System

Published Sunday June 3, 2018

Dermatologist Inspection

As reported by CBS News, for the first time, new research suggests artificial intelligence may be better than highly-trained humans at detecting skin cancer. A study conducted by an international team of researchers pitted experienced dermatologists against a machine learning system, known as a deep learning convolutional neural network, or CNN, to see which was more effective at detecting malignant melanomas.

The results? “Most dermatologists were outperformed by the CNN,” the researchers wrote in their report, published in the journal Annals of Oncology.

Fifty-eight dermatologists from 17 countries around the world participated in the study. More than half of the doctors were considered expert level with more than five years’ experience. Nineteen percent said they had between two to five years’ experience, and 29 percent had less than two years’ experience.

At first look, dermatologists correctly detected an average of 87 percent of melanomas, and accurately identified an average of 73 percent of lesions that were not malignant. Conversely, the CNN correctly detected 95 percent of melanomas. The expert dermatologists performed better in the initial round of diagnoses than the less-experienced doctors at identifying malignant melanomas. But their average of correct diagnoses was still worse than the AI system’s.

Is this the beginning of the end for the need of human expertise in medicine, law, finance, science, engineering and other fields that tax the limits of human learning and intelligence? We’ve already experienced agricultural and industrial revolutions where human labor was replaced by technology – is the professional revolution next?