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How long you got? Danish AI algorithm aims to predict life, and death

KONGENS LYNGBY, Denmark — Researchers in Denmark are harnessing artificial intelligence and data from millions of people to help anticipate the stages of an individual's life all the way to the end, hoping to raise awareness of the technology's power, and its perils.

Far from any morbid fascinations, the creators of life2vec want to explore patterns and relationships that so-called deep-learning programmes can uncover to predict a wide range of health or social "life-events".

"It's a very general framework for making predictions about human lives. It can predict anything where you have training data," Sune Lehmann, a professor at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and one of the authors of a study recently published in the journal Nature Computational Science, told AFP.

For Lehmann, the possibilities are endless.

"It could predict health outcomes. So it could predict fertility or obesity, or you could maybe predict who will get cancer or who doesn't get cancer. But it could also predict if you're going to make a lot of money," he said.

The algorithm uses a similar process as that of ChatGPT, but instead it analyses variables impacting life such as birth, education, social benefits or even work schedules.

The team is trying to adapt the innovations that enabled language-processing algorithms to "examine the evolution and predictability of human lives based on detailed event sequences".

"From one perspective, lives are simply sequences of events: People are born, visit the paediatrician, start school, move to a new location, get married, and so on," Lehmann said.

Yet the disclosure of the programme quickly spawned claims of a new "death calculator", with some fraudulent sites duping people with offers to use the AI programme for a life expectancy prediction -- often in exchange for submitting personal data.

The researchers insist the software is private and unavailable on the internet or to the wider research community for now.

The basis for the life2vec model is the anonymised data of around six million Danes, collected by the official Statistics Denmark agency.

By analysing sequences of events it is possible predict life outcomes right up until the last