Thursday, February 14, 2013

Domo Arigato, Dr. Roboto.

After mining truck drivers and journalists, it's the family doctors' turn to shout bingo!

Reporting on research conducted by Professor Kris Hauser and Casey C. Bennett, from Indiana University's School of Informatics and Computing, Stephen C. Webster (The Raw Story, h/t Mike Norman Economics) says: "AI system diagnoses illnesses better than doctors".

If my livelihood depended on working as a GP, I'd say that headline is rather ominous.

But you ain't seen nothing yet. This is the real punch line: "Bennett and Hauser said their computer diagnosis would have provided a 58.5 percent cost savings 'per unit of health outcome' versus treatment as usual by a doctor".

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But there's no reason to worry. Economists know for sure, because their theories say so, that for every good job gone, another job of some description (but undoubtedly equally good) will be created and will be there, waiting just for you. And you know for sure that you can trust them; I mean, they wouldn't lie to us, would they? Besides, they have such a wonderful predictive record.

Bennett: "Even with the development of new AI techniques that can approximate or even surpass human decision-making performance, we believe that the most effective long-term path could be combining artificial intelligence with human clinicians".

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Don't get me wrong: I am no luddite. This may indeed be a boom for patients, if not on prices (let's quit kidding ourselves), at least on quality. What I fail to see is how unemployed doctors will benefit from this.

And, after them, it may well be your turn.

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From the IU media release: "The new work addresses three vexing issues related to health care in the US". The last issue is "a lag time of 13 to 17 years between research and practice in clinical care".

Let's close this post with a strangely suitable 1983 video:



By the way, I hope the day is not far removed when researchers announce a robo-economist, a robo-politician and a robo-think tanker. Now, wouldn't that be fun?

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