Search engines today use extremely sophisticated algorithms to guess what you’ll be searching for next based on your previous queries. This optimization has paid off very well for companies like Google, for instance, which can use this information to serve you better, more relevant results to queries, but also sell better ads.
It’s thrilling to hear, though, that more or less the same technology is used to predict which people have cancer before they even visited a doctor — powerful tech that’s used to save lives, not just make a hefty profit.
Dr. Eric Horvitz is both a medical doctor and a computer scientist, a double background that serves him well as the head of Microsoft’s newly founded Health and Wellness division.
One day, Horvitz got a call from a friend who was feeling sick. After describing his symptoms, Horvitz advised him to seek medical help. Not long after, the man was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died only a few months later.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most unforgiving diseases out there, with only 3 percent of patients surviving five years after the diagnosis.
Today, Horvitz and colleagues at Microsoft published a paper in which they claim search queries can be used to predict if a person has pancreatic cancer with pretty good accuracy, considering they’re only working with anonymous queries.