Insights from the Future: AI health system runs amuck, killing every second person in Tibet

‘AI health system’ is chapter 19 of Insights from the Future, a book I’m writing about technology, innovation, and people … from the perspective of the future. Subscribe to my newsletter to keep in touch and get notified when the book publishes.

January 1, 2042

Three million people are dead in a horrific slaughter the Chinese province’s government says is due to a bug in a new AI health management system.

The scale of the destruction is almost too great to imagine or convey. Some died at work, others in the streets. Some died while driving or biking, causing even more chaos and damage. Aid workers are arriving from China and almost every other country on the planet, as the immediate loss of half the population has basically shut Tibet down. And the survivors, of course, are grief-stricken and unable to keep the machinery of civilization going.

While exactly what happened is not clear, this follows the recent introduction of Chuāntech39.

AI-health-chinaLaunched in September of last year, Chuāntech39 is a medical AI system that includes a surgically inserted wearable component that monitors health, dispenses medicine, and reports status to a central server. Extensively tested over the past five years, government health officials say it saved hundreds of thousands of lives in other Chinese provinces, but inexplicably failed shortly after deployment in Tibet.

“We do not yet know why, but the Chuāntech39 device administered a lethal dose of a combination of vitamins and minerals to exactly half the population,” Fang Song, chief executive officer of Chuāntech39, said in a live-streamed press conference. She appeared to be weeping as she spoke. “It seems to be a bug in the system that only impacted users in the same time zone as Tibet.”

Historically, China has had one time zone: Beijing Standard Time.

However, recently the country adopted multiple time zones in response to civic pressure to have the hours of the day reflect the light in the sky. Of the provinces in the same time zone as Tibet, only Tibet has to this point adopted Chuāntech39.

Widespread anger in the rest of China has erupted, straining the attempts of government censors. Until just hours ago, the most-trending search query on Baidu was “how to remove Chuāntech39.” It too was recently deleted by officials.

“We have temporarily disabled the entire Chuāntech39 network,” Song said. “It will not restart until it has been checked and re-checked, and the work approved by government inspectors.

What’s not clear is how a mega-dose of vitamins — toxic though it could be — could kill instantly. Vitamin overdoses of C or B or D vitamins typically lead to states of toxosis, rendering victims sick and in distress, but not immediately dead. Song did not reply directly to questions from the press on this, saying that the government-led analysis of this disaster would learn more.

Meanwhile, Tibet is left to somehow recover from the abrupt and meaningless loss of millions of fathers, mothers, and children.

Again, this is a chapter of Insights from the Future, a book I’m writing about technology, innovation, and people … from the perspective of the future. Subscribe to my newsletter to keep in touch and get notified when the book publishes.

 


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