Do you Look Sick?

Have you ever noticed that it does not take long for you to detect that you are not well? Your body gives you signals; perhaps you are shivering or queasy? Equally, being unwell shows on your face through visual cues. Red eyes, pale lips, patchy skin, a watering nose, inflamed nose or even red ears are all signs that something is amiss. It does not require rocket science for you or your loved ones to mention to you “you look unwell, whats up.”

Speaking of rocket science, wouldn’t it be fascinating if instead of just you, a computer could analyze the tell-tale signs of impending illness and warn you? If so, it could act as an early detection system and perhaps even a prevention system? Scientists attempting to train computers took a host of images of people already sick and used it to teach computers to detect the signs. Computers have already become reasonably good at facial recognition and leaping to determine whether you are ill is both obvious and logical. It does throw up a host of ethical questions including whether it can be used to discriminate against you.

Anyone who has fallen sick in the recent past might thank the capacity to go beyond human faculty to machine-driven detection. After all, imagine a machine could detect cancer much before any human being could. You would welcome the capacity of the computer to do so. Similarly, early detection of facial clues can result in the prevention of global epidemics including the common cold leading up to SARS and other pandemics. Someday, your mirror will look back at you and ask you to check into a hospital as you are likely to fall sick in the next few days. In the meantime, do listen when your wife tells you that you are about to.


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.

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