Whenever we move towards a new year, I like to gaze into my crystal ball and consider what lies ahead.
Some years back, the legendary Brien Holden embarked on plans to eradicate preventable blindness by 2020. I’m sure we all agree that such a lofty goal will not be reached. That said, the structures his vision put in place have helped countless numbers achieve the gift of vision and we all hope that sooner, rather than later, we will get there.
Back in the early part of 2017, during my time at mivision, we set in place the beginnings of this second annual myopia special edition.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will also threaten our slice of the pie, though there will be plenty of good to come out of it
Myopia control and prevention is now attaining critical mass with many practitioners involved to some degree or another. It provides our profession with another string in its bow. This is important because, for a variety of reasons, we have lost many ‘strings’ in recent years: we have lost most of the sunglass market; ditto, reading glasses, which are now available in readymade form for a few dollars (and a lot more too) from just about anywhere. Even my wife quite likes a pair of 3D printed readers she wears occasionally over her multifocal contact lenses, as a top up.
On the subject of contact lenses, we’ve lost a fair slice of that market to online providers, many of whom are breaking the law, selling contact lenses without an Rx or allowing users to self-prescribe.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will also threaten our slice of the pie, though there will be plenty of good to come out of it. When AI was pitted against a panel of retinal experts it was found to have a very high level of accuracy in detecting and diagnosing diabetic retinopathy (and the like) through digital analysis of retinal images. In this scenario, AI can assist the quest to eradicate preventable blindness – especially in places where the ratio of eye care practitioners to those in need is abysmal.
The potential for highly mobile, AI-based, hand-held retinal cameras could help take eye care to the masses living far from main centres, in remote regions of countries such as Asia, Africa, and South America.
Paul Gifford is working on AI for orthokeratology and myopia control, as explained by Kate Gifford on Myopia Profile. Recently she wrote, “Paul has used over 300 maps from our practice to develop a ‘brain in the machine’ which analyses the numerical data outputs from a post orthokeratology topography map, to predict the shape change through a neural network process (machine learning). His little machine monster has been compared against classification by experts… with 82 per cent accuracy.
“What does this mean for us in practice? Paul’s automated topography analysis algorithm is still in an early phase of development and will need more data to become even more accurate.
“For novice fitters, this has the exciting potential to leverage the analysis expertise of numerous experts rather than just relying on the analysis experience of one person. For an experienced fitter, it’s about saving time and improving efficiency.”
Should AI threaten your job? The Giffords think not.
“While the world champion chess player, Kasparov, was beaten by a machine about 20 years ago, more recently some intermediate level human players, in combination with a machine, have proven themselves unbeatable by either man or machine in isolation. So, if we can learn to work with our future machine overlords, we’ll do better than either will alone,” Kate wrote.
We must corral every possible tool and skill so that we can complement the knowledge that AI, Big Data, and the Internet of Things offer.
We still have the edge.
Our super powerful, data-crunching, intuitive brains are not to be trifled with.