AI-based healthcare: a new dawn or apartheid revisited?

Alice Parfett, Stuart Townley, Kristofer Allerfeldt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


The Bubonic Plague outbreak that wormed its way through San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1900 tells a story of prejudice guiding health policy, resulting in enormous suffering for much of its Chinese population. This article seeks to discuss the potential for hidden “prejudice” should Artificial Intelligence (AI) gain a dominant foothold in healthcare systems. Using a toy model, this piece explores potential future outcomes, should AI continue to develop without bound. Where potential dangers may lurk will be discussed, so that the full benefits AI has to offer can be reaped whilst avoiding the pitfalls. The model is produced using the computer programming language MATLAB and offers visual representations of potential outcomes. Interwoven with these potential outcomes are numerous historical models for problems caused by prejudice and recent issues in AI systems, from police prediction and facial recognition software to recruitment tools. Therefore, this research’s novel angle, of using historical precedents to model and discuss potential futures, offers a unique contribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)983–999
JournalAI and Society
Early online date22 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Bias
  • Healthcare
  • History
  • Mathematics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Artificial Intelligence


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