Will Your Future Doctor be Human or Machine?

Will Your Future Doctor be Human or Machine?


Apparently, doctors using robots will pretty much be the done thing. So you had better get friendly with your local AI.


As artificial intelligence creeps more and more into our existence, we have had to get more comfortable with AI part-running our lives. Some of us are suspicious of it, others love the hell out of it.

The past decade has been exceptional in terms of the pace at which technological advances are propelling change. Computers have entered our social spaces where they can now be found in our cars, our phones and our houses.

So what about medicine? What will the doctor of the near future look like? Well, according to a new book called Social Machines by James Hendler and Alice Mulvehill, tomorrow’s medical world will be a place where humans and AI work together. So when you have your next hernia, you can expect a doctor using AI to get that hernia back into whatever godawful gap it’s supposed to be in.

The authors have posed this question: Which would provide more accurate diagnosis and better treatment – a human doctor, an intelligent machine, or some combination of the two?

So here an interesting experiment to answer to that. A computer has finally outwitted humans in the game Go. (The game is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent.) So AI are now in the position where the can make better strategic decisions that humans.

Humans are limited in other ways too, for example by the limited amount of information we can store in our brains, or by our emotional reaction to some situations. We feel feelings, AI do not. (Well tell that to Commander Data).

Where future medical treatment may lie is a mix of both human and AI interaction. Chess centaurs – where each team is half-human, half-computer – have outperformed the best humans and the best computers. So it seems to be a combination of both AI and humans that gets the best end result. For example, a computer can help a doctor mine scientific literature to spot a rare disease. But doctors, with their understanding of humanity, need to stay in the loop. We don’t want a situation whereby an AI with no feelings sees that a human that has 6 months to live and decides to terminate the human there and then because it’s not worth using battery power to treat the patient.

We need to know how to get the best from machines while still ensuring human safety and security. AI would not exist without humans and we are still needed for much of its power.  Co-Author Alice Mulvehill says, “Being AI knowledgeable is crucial to future online life. Rather than being afraid of it, we believe that people need to be well-informed about what it can and can’t do. In this way, we can make smart decisions about how to use or limit the powerful technologies that will shape the social machines of the future.”

The other co-author James Hendler says, “Social interactions with machines provide them with new data about us and our world. As AI systems evolve, we must understand how this information will change our lives as it is used by industrial, government, or even adversarial organisations.”

Optimists see reasons for hope, while pessimists might see reasons for fear. How would you feel about seeing your doctor-AI team in the future? We here at the Almanac are all for robot slaves. We want to know when the surgical facelift AIs are ready.


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