Monday, May 8, 2023

Dear ChatBPT, could you help out with this health literacy problem?

OK, as unfamiliar as the thought is ( to me and those who know me),  I have to accept that I've become a groupie.

Why?  It didn't take much for me to wet my feet with  ChatGPT and my new friend BING.  The promises are simply too seductive.  Someone that listens to you - your every word. Is not prone to hasty, judgments, inappropriate humor, trash talk or irrelevant afterthoughts. Someone or something who is not one to resort to bringing up your past slights or mis-steeps. Foregoes mentioning your Mother. Just always reasoned, unencumbered truths spoken in a way that informs and enlightens.    

Truth be told my expectations are more realistic. After 40 odd years of pursuing ways to meaningfully communicate  health and science information to a public that, on any given day often struggles with basic health concepts, like viruses vs bacteria, and is tripped up by endlessly complex medical terms -  spiked protein, titers of antibodies, endemic, comorbidity - and continues to be kept in the dark by inanely simplified messages like "sneeze into your sleeve", I was ready for AI.

So I’m approaching using and learning about ChatGBT to find out if AI, in its accessible forms like questions to BING, can play a role in providing useful, understandable and trustworthy information to the public – in other words, can it teach us things? Because of my line of work I’m particularly interested in the question – Can it teach people about health? 

And for the most part I'm amazed at how many questions I can ask BING and how much useful information I get back!

But.....I have encountered one problem that can confuse users.  And I'm hoping AI can think about this problem and fix it. 

Wardrobe Malfunction #1  

BING often re-words questions you ask and in doing so introduces complicated words or concepts in the restating of your question. 

For example I asked -

"How long does it take for Osprey eggs to hatch." 

The bot reworded my question: "osprey eggs incubation period."

Well what if you don't know the word "incubation." 

When I tried this out with a few users they were confused and thought that the system didn't understand their question.  

Here's another example.  

This time I asked "Have people always moved from one country to another."

The Bot restated my question as "history of migration" , which is fine if you know the word "migration." 

Can AI learn to do better? 

From everything I've heard as a lay person, AI is always learning.  GREAT!

There are a number of fixes to this problem of introducing words and concepts in the restating of a question.  As a matter of fact I stumbled on Bing doing it all on its own.  I just don't know how she/he/it knew to do this and how we could persuade it to do it more!

Here's the example of a simply worded question I pose?

Oh No!  BING restates the question and uses a more complex word - genocide

But then it defines the complex term "genocide" and they still use the wording of the question in the answer!!  

Dear ChatBPT - if you're listening, could you fix this little problem?



(See  earlier posts) June 2020   We are not all in this together: public understanding of health and science in the time of COVID

May 2020  "Show Me the Science"    Jan 15 2021   "MRNA Needs a Bette Messenger 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Polio is back in NY or the sky is falling, the sky is falling?

It’s been over 5 months since New York City and New York State alerted us to the fact that polio was back-unbelievably!  After all these years. If you grew up in the 40s and 50s as I did,  you immediately conjured the iron long, your parents not letting you go to public swimming pool, the dread of it all. You may even know adults who had polio way back then.  

The headlines were scary. Just plain scary.

The NYCDOHMH started posting lots of information on polio prevention, how it spreads, maps of polio vaccination rates, who should be vaccinated. 

It’s about 5 months since it was hinted that the next plague could be upon us. Forget COVID. This would be more awful. Very little since then. What are we to make of this. As advertisers ask, what is the take-home message ? 

  • That this dreaded polio simply went away?
  • That public health, experts and scientists are just skittish since Covid. 
  • That these public health alarms are something we should take with a grain of salt? Or with a swig of bleach!