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Alphabet CFO: Our AI is so good we can detect breast cancer with less data than ever

Key Points
  • At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat said her company was able to make a major breakthrough in metastatic breast cancer detection with less data using artificial intelligence.
  • Porat said "ever less data" is needed to achieve breakthroughs thanks to AI.
  • In October, Google claimed it created an AI agent that could  "correctly distinguish a slide with metastatic cancer from a slide without cancer 99% of the time," according to a blog post.
Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat
Adam Galica | CNBC

Major breakthroughs are now possible with less data than ever thanks to artificial intelligence, Alphabet Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat said during a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Tuesday.

Artificial intelligence "learns" patterns by ingesting typically large amounts of data and then using that information to complete a task, like sorting data into different buckets. Porat said less data is required than before to see impactful results from AI, citing a recent example of medical breakthrough aided by Alphabet technology.

Google, which is owned by Alphabet, claimed in an October blog post it had created an AI that could "correctly distinguish a slide with metastatic cancer from a slide without cancer 99% of the time." Google said the breakthrough could indicate that AI could play a role in repetitive diagnostic procedures, freeing up time for doctors to focus on more difficult tasks.

"We needed only hundreds of biopsies from breast cancer patients — hundreds — in order to have a breakthrough in metastatic breast cancer because of the developments in AI," Porat said.

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Alphabet CFO: Intensely focused on delivering for users