Homeopathy + AI = More nonsense

Homeopathy + AI = More nonsense

Not all ideas about AI are good. Via Reddit.

What happens when you “combine” pseudoscience with trendy but real, popular but little-known science? You get the ridiculous idea that artificial intelligence (AI) can be effectively combined with homeopathy or make it more effective. Mark Crislip has many famous statements and one of my favorites is:

If you integrate fantasy with reality, it doesn’t instantiate reality. If you mix cow pie with apple pie, it doesn’t improve the flavor of the cow pie; apple pie gets worse.

Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much that AI can bring to an alternative medicine practice that has no scientific or factual basis.

From “The Health Site”,

For the first time in India, Dr. Batra’s Healthcare is bringing AI skin treatment with the goodness of homeopathy. On Tuesday, the company announced the introduction of AI Skin Pro, an AI-based device for diagnosing skin diseases. Imported from South Korea, the machine is claimed to be the world’s fifth-generation skin analyzer based on artificial intelligence and a futuristic method of treating skin problems.

According to Dr. Batra’s experts, this artificial intelligence-based device (AI Skin Pro) can pinpoint skin problems deep within the skin (dermis) before they appear on the surface. Combined with homeopathy, which is holistic, safe and without side effects, AI Skin Pro offers an advanced method of treating skin problems.

What the vendor appears to be offering is a device that recommends homeopathy based on some sort of algorithm derived from a facial scan. I couldn’t find any details about the device, but Dr. Batra appears to be a major homeopathy dealer. How the device evaluates skin and what it actually evaluates is not described. There is no shortage of alleged “AI-powered” skin analysis tools, but this appears to be the only company linking it to homeopathic remedies.

Which is actually perfect, as homeopathic remedies are usually chemically indistinguishable: they are all effectively placebos, but are believed to offer medicinal effects. So no matter what the algorithm identifies, consumers are likely to get exactly the same product: a placebo.

Samuel Hahnemann invented the practice of homeopathy in the early 1800s. While the practice of medicine slowly progressed towards a scientific model based on objective observations, homeopathy never progressed or evolved. Its practices today are frozen in Hahnemann’s own prescientific beliefs. Homeopathy is based on the idea that like cures like, in that a small dose of what causes a symptom can actually cure that symptom. Like cures like is simply sympathetic magic, a prescientific belief. Proponents of homepathy also believe that water has memory, and the more you dilute a substance, the more powerful its effects. The 30C potency is a common dilution used in homeopathy which is a dilution of 10-60. If something was diluted that much, you’d have to give two billion doses a second, to six billion people, over 4 billion years, to deliver a single molecule of the original pre-diluted material. The result of all this dilution is that most homeopathic remedies are completely inert and do not contain a single molecule of the original reference material. And that original reference material can range from table salt to sunlight to vacuum cleaner dust. There is no product so bizarre that homeopaths have not made a remedy out of it. Bottled as liquids or added to creams and moisturizers and sold as medicines, they do not contain any active drugs. Which perhaps is the point of homeopathic skincare…if it involves applying something to your skin, then the base cream/lotion will do the heavy lifting.

Sure, while homeopathic AI-powered skincare is a minor issue, it does illustrate how proponents of alternative medicine crave the legitimacy of science, even if they reject it.

Let me delude you on ChatGPT, I asked him how AI could benefit homeopathy, and this is what he said:

AI can potentially benefit homeopathy in several ways:

  1. Data Analysis: Homeopathy relies on the collection and analysis of large amounts of patient data to determine the most appropriate remedies for individual cases. AI can help analyze this data quickly and efficiently, identifying patterns and correlations that may not be immediately apparent to human professionals. This can help discover new remedies, refine existing ones, and improve overall treatment results.
  2. Patient Assessment: AI can assist in the initial assessment of patients by analyzing their symptoms, medical history and other relevant information. By leveraging machine learning algorithms, AI systems can provide more accurate and personalized recommendations for homeopathic remedies based on a comprehensive analysis of individual cases.
  3. Treatment recommendation: AI can assist homeopathic practitioners by suggesting potential remedies based on symptoms presented by patients. By analyzing a vast database of remedies, historical treatment data and patient outcomes, AI can generate recommendations in line with homeopathic principles and assist practitioners in their decision-making process.
  4. Research and development: Artificial intelligence can accelerate research and development in homeopathy by automating some aspects of the process. AI systems can analyze scientific literature, clinical studies, and experimental data to identify new relationships between remedies and conditions, suggest potential avenues for further investigation, and aid in the formulation of new remedies.
  5. Quality Control: Homeopathic remedies are prepared through a process called potentisation, which involves dilution and succussion (vigorous shaking). Ensuring the quality and consistency of remedies can be difficult. AI can aid in quality control by analyzing manufacturing processes, monitoring parameters such as dilution ratios and succussion duration, and providing feedback to ensure remedies are prepared accurately and consistently.

It is important to note that while AI can provide valuable support to homeopathic practitioners, the fundamental principles and practice of homeopathy should still be guided by the expertise and experience of trained professionals. AI should be seen as a tool to enhance and augment their capabilities rather than replacing them.

Great language models, like ChatGPT, build their responses based on massive amounts of data and can organize paragraphs (like the ones above) in ways that look coherent and compelling. But, like homeopathy itself, they are only as strong as their foundation. ChatGPT can give nonsense answers if the inputs it considers are nonsense. Homeopathy is built upon a foundation which is a belief system and not a science. No amount of science applied to homeopathy, whether AI-based or otherwise, can dispute that it is a pseudoscience.

  • Scott Gavura, BScPhm, MBA, RPh is committed to improving the way medicines are used and examining the pharmacy profession through the lens of science-based medicine. He has a professional interest in improving the convenient use of medicines at the population level. Scott holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Toronto and completed an accredited Canadian hospital pharmacy residency program. His professional background includes work in both community and hospital pharmacy settings. He is a registered pharmacist in Ontario, Canada. Scott has no conflicts of interest to disclose. Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by Scott are his personal opinions only and do not represent the views of any current or former employer or any organization with which he may be affiliated. All information is provided for discussion purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with a licensed and accredited healthcare professional.

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