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Former U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is not a regular on the health care speaker circuit. But he appeared at a conference in Boston this week to deliver a message about the industry’s embrace of artificial intelligence: If someone gets hurt, you can’t blame it on the machine.

Carter has plenty of experience with the dilemmas of AI. As defense secretary under President Obama, he oversaw the development of autonomous drones and other AI-enabled systems for use in combat — a context where algorithmic errors can result in the deaths of countless civilians


“I have a moral responsibility to know how the hell it happened that innocent human life was taken as I was trying to accomplish my mission,” Carter told an audience at the World Medical Innovation Forum, which focused on the introduction of advanced AI systems into clinical care. “You can’t escape responsibility for that.”

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