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Can the WHO’s ‘AI-powered digital health worker’ offer balanced information on e-cigarettes?

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Can the WHO’s ‘AI-powered digital health worker’ offer balanced information on e-cigarettes… or does it fall in line with the body’s longstanding anti-vaping views?

If you’ve ever seen Terminator, I Robot or just about any other dystopian sci-fi action thriller… then you’re probably familiar with the concept of AI.

For those who aren’t; it’s essentially a machine that can think for itself – much in the way a human can – solving problems, learning and responding to situations in real time.

On the big screen, these advanced systems are often depicted as homicidal, bloodthirsty robots, whose prime objective is to wipe out mankind and take dominion of the planet.

But when you remove that familiar ticket-selling dose of Hollywood exaggeration, the reality of artificial intelligence is likely far less violent.

While it feels like AI is a development reserved for the far off future, we are actually seeing the technology slowing integrating into the modern world.

These cutting-edge machines are increasingly being used for manufacturing, transport, analytics and, perhaps most impressively, are also making their way into the health sector.

In fact, the World Health Organization recently unveiled its newest AI-powered virtual adviser; the soft spoken and digitally rendered Florence 2.0.

Created in partnership with the Qatar Ministry of Health and tech company Soul Machines, the pioneering system is set to help people around the globe on their ‘journey to a healthier life’.

The original iteration of Florence was released during the COVID pandemic and this new version has been updated to offer advice on some of the biggest health issues facing people today.

By answering a series of ‘interactive questions’, Florence 2.0 can reportedly provide guidance on a ‘myriad of topics’ ranging from de-stressing to eating right and staying physically active.

She will also be able to fully communicate this advice in seven different languages by the end of 2022; though her complete library of knowledge is currently only available in English.

Florence – who can be spoken to via a simulated video chat – has been hailed as an ‘important tool’ in the mission to support people making improved lifestyle choices.

Andy Pattison, the WHO’s Team Lead for Digital Channels, said: “Digital technology plays a critical role in helping people worldwide lead healthier lives.

“The AI health worker Florence is a shining example of the potential to harness technology to promote and protect people’s physical and mental health.”

Curiously, the virtual avatar also gives guidance on quitting smoking and e-cigarettes…and with the WHO’s long-standing anti-vaping reputation, we just had to see what Florence had to say on the matter.

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH A ROBOT

 

——

 

FLORENCE: “Hi, I’m Florence and it’s so nice to meet you. Human health is my speciality and I want everyone to live a healthier life. “There is so much we can talk about, from tobacco products and alcohol to healthy living and mental health. “I can also share information about COVID-19 vaccines; is there something specific you want to talk about, or would you like to know a little more about me?”

JORDAN: “I’d like to know about vaping as a method to quit smoking.”

FLORENCE: “There are claims doing the rounds that e-cigarettes might play a role in helping people stop smoking, but there is not enough evidence to support these claims. “For tobacco users looking to quit, there are other products that have been proven to work, such as nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), professional support or proven cessation medications. “I can talk more about NRTs, or we can take a deeper look at why e-cigarettes and heated products are harmful?”

NRTS ALSO CONTAIN NICOTINE, SO SURELY THE SAME WARNING WOULD BE APPLIED TO THOSE? 

 

——

 

JORDAN: “Why do you say that e-cigarettes are harmful?”

FLORENCE: “As I’ve already mentioned (she hadn’t) nicotine can damage the developing brain so they should be kept away from children. “If you’re pregnant, you should stay away from e-cigarettes completely as they can damage the health of your growing baby. “The use of e-cigarettes also increases our risk of heart and lung diseases…I can share more about how e-cigarettes damage our lungs or we can look at the dangers of second-hand emissions for non-users?”

 

——

 

JORDAN: “Do you have any sources that say lung and heart injuries can occur when vaping?”

FLORENCE: “The scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid is still being debated. “I would recommend you use proven tobacco cessation methods for quitting.”

ARE MILLIONS OF EX-SMOKERS WHO HAVE USED VAPING TO QUIT AROUND THE WORLD NOT EVIDENCE ENOUGH? 

 

———

 

JORDAN: “Is vaping 95 percent less harmful than smoking?”

FLORENCE: “Tobacco is extremely unhealthy; research shows that over half of tobacco users are killed by it. “Tobacco kills more than eight million people each year, more than seven million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use. “Around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.”

I ASKED THIS ONE A NUMBER OF TIMES BUT SHE STRUGGLED TO GIVE A STRAIGHT ANSWER. 

 

———

 

JORDAN: What is the cause of popcorn lung?

FLORENCE: “There is growing evidence to suggest that the use of e-cigarettes can cause lung damage. “At least six countries have launched investigations to identify causes of lung-injuries related to e-cigarette use. “With all this information at hand, you might be wondering why e-cigarettes aren’t just banned.”

WHEN ASKED SHE COULDN’T TELL ME WHICH SIX COUNTRIES. 

 

———

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I was so shocked that the WHO’s virtual assistant – which says it ‘wants everyone to live a healthier life’ – would suggest that one of the most effective quitting tools of all time be banned…I had to end the conversation here.

Earlier we highlighted that AI is supposed to be able to think for itself, but all Florence seemed capable of was spewing out long-repeated dogma from the WHO’s anti-vaping playbook.

 

QUESTIONS FLORENCE COULDN’T OR WOULDN’T ANSWER: ·

  • How many people have ever died from vaping? ·
  • Does the WHO have any conflicts of interest when it comes to vaping? ·
  • Is vaping less harmful than smoking? ·
  • Does the community of 80+ million vapers (estimated) show e-cigarettes are an effective way to quit smoking? ·
  • Can you provide me with any sources that support the negative information you’ve given me about vaping? ·
  • Which health organisations support vaping as a tool to quit smoking? ·
  • What do you have to say about Michael Bloomberg – a known anti-vaping lobbyist – and his massive financing of the WHO?

 

Discover more News from Vapouround

Enjoyed this article? Why not take a look at our other vape articles by visiting the ‘News‘ section of the Vapouround website.

 



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