Updated: Nov 7
According to a study conducted by MIT researchers, artificial intelligence (AI) can predict the self-reported race of patients from medical images alone with high accuracy. Source
The study used imaging data of chest X-rays, limb X-rays, chest CT scans, and mammograms to train a deep learning model to identify race as white, Black, or Asian, even though the images themselves contained no explicit mention of the patient’s race. Source
The researchers found that AI can accurately predict self-reported race of patients from medical images that contain no indications of race detectable by human experts. Source
It is concerning that AI can easily learn to recognize racial identity in medical images, and that this capability is extremely difficult to isolate or mitigate.
The miseducation of algorithms is a critical problem; when artificial intelligence mirrors unconscious thoughts, racism, and biases of the humans who generated these algorithms, it can lead to serious harm.
In a recent study, published in Lancet Digital Health, NIH-funded researchers found that AI models could accurately predict self-reported race in several different types of radiographic images—a task not possible for human experts. These findings suggest that race information could be unknowingly incorporated into image analysis models, which could potentially exacerbate racial disparities in the medical setting.