We are all in trouble. All of us. We are at a cross-road in human history. In November 2023 the UK government will host a global summit on futuristic “Frontier AI” at Bletchley Park in South East England. Every contemplation on the use of “Frontier AI” is now driven by the need for governments to address the existential challenges that arise from the misuse of AI, and to utilise AI for tangible public good – including improving education, curing diseases, and addressing the climate catastrophe.

Insecurity and war, unseasonable weather, atmospheric rivers, melting glaciers, high ocean temperatures, and other escalating climate challenges are overwhelming health services, interrupting the treatment of patients, fuelling upsurges in infections, and displacing communities. To meet the 2030 target of putting an end to tuberculosis, AIDS, and malaria, three of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, especially after the disruptions associated with COVID-19, may require extraordinary measures.

In conflict zones reaching vulnerable communities is challenging due to insecurity. Armed conflicts that result in shocking loss of civilian life, considerable displacement, and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law aggravate insecurity and pre-existing vulnerabilities.

These events take place in the shadow of international humanitarian law – known as the laws of war – that seek to minimize human suffering and protect civilians and combatants who are no longer engaged in hostilities, such as prisoners of war. And as millions of people find their lives shattered by armed conflict, an unstable Antarctica that once seemed resistant to global warming, has recorded levels of sea-ice far below any previous recorded level.

The consequences of low levels of sea-ice in Antarctica are far-reaching. The luminescent surface of Antarctica’s huge ice expanse reflects the Sun’s energy back into the atmosphere, and the floating ice cools the water beneath. Anything that affects the reflection of the Sun’s rays and the cooling of the seawater in Antarctica could change the Earth’s refrigerator into a radiator. It is already the case that malaria is spreading to highland regions in Africa that were once too cold for the mosquito to survive. Now these regions are strangely warmer. The use of AI to develop new compounds in such situations has proved to be priceless.

AI is also accelerating the speed with which patients can be identified for clinical trials, and accelerating drug development. AI is presently scanning billions of public health records, prescription data, medical insurance claims, and internal pharmaceutical records to find trial patients for new medications within the parameters of patient privacy, since less than twenty-five per cent of health data is publically available for research.

AI may shave off two years off the decade it typically takes to develop a new drug. This has resulted in shortening the time to sign up patients for clinical trials. Before AI, drug developers would spend months sending out surveys to clinics, health centres, and hospitals to find patients with relevant clinical and demographic characteristics to participate in a trial in different countries. But it is never that straightforward. Trials experience high dropout rates, and many patients do not adhere to the trial protocol.

AI is also cutting down the number of patients needed for late-stage trials for some conditions. AI is also being used to link mid-stage trial outcomes to real-world data from millions of patients in different countries to predict long-term risks in a population similar to the trial. AI reduces the number of late-stage participants and the time it takes to recruit volunteers. Without AI, millions more would have to be spent.

To extend the research strategy, some companies plan to use real-world patient data to generate an external control pool that may eliminate the need for a population of patients taking a placebo. This is critical for patients with very rare conditions. Other research facilities are intended to mine anonymised real-world data of patients with similar vulnerabilities.

The advantage of AI is that it allows laboratories to examine real-world patient data rapidly and at scale. All of these innovative research methods will require companies to apply to agencies like the European Medicines Agency (EMA) seeking permission to use AI in this way.

In Portugal, eleven young adults have filed a lawsuit against 32 countries in Strasbourg at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). They claim that the countries have failed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5C.

They claim that they have experienced eco-anxiety, respiratory conditions, and allergies because of extreme weather events. They further claim that their fundamental human rights to life, privacy, family life and to be free from discrimination are being violated by states that are reluctant to combat climate change.

What the case will decide is the relationship between climate issues and human rights. If the action succeeds, the ruling would legally bind all thirty-two governments at once to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The case is the first of its kind to be filed at the ECtHR.  These eleven young adults will face thirty-two legal teams and hundreds of lawyers representing the governments. We are at the crossroads of using AI to improve lives.