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AI can determine a person’s race based on X-ray images.

This suggests that the idea of bias AI is not new or surprising but is troubling. Other past research, such as an analysis in Nature Medicine, has shown that AI implementation can be influenced by demographics, which includes race. It said that “there is growing concern that such AI systems may reflect and amplify human bias, and reduce the quality of their performance in historically under-served populations such as female patients, Black patients, or patients of low socioeconomic status.” This bias often leads to troublesome underdiagnosis by AI algorithms.

The study from The Lancet said there could be several factors that lead to bias, such as using data that doesn’t represent an entire patient population. Another factor that can lead to AI bias is artificial intelligence learning about traits that might be present in the population, like certain phenotypes, or characteristics, such as bone density.

The study

The research team wanted to see if AI models could determine race only from chest X-rays. They used three large datasets that included a large, diverse population and what they found was astounding. The AI could predict the race of a patient with precision based solely on the X-ray, something even the experts were not able to do.

The AI could also determine the race even when the images were “highly degraded or cropped to one-ninth of the original size, or when the resolution was modified to such an extent that the images were barely recognized as X-rays.”

Concerning factors

To prevent phenotype racial bias, the researchers used other non-chest X-ray datasets that included mammograms, chest computed tomography (CT) scans, and cervical spine radiographs. The AI was able to still determine the race of the person.

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