The prospect that much of what humans do will be replaced by machines is nothing new. From the earliest days of the industrial revolution, there has been a massive amount of human labour that has been replaced by machine-based solutions. But many predict, we are on the cusp of another, digitally-based revolution that will see much of our professional work being replaced by artificial intelligence technologies.
In a recent Harvard Business Review Webinar, Oxford professors Richard Suskind and Daniel Suskind indicate that despite the common wisdom that doctors, lawyers and other professionals will remain relatively unscathed by AI tools, their research has led them to the opposite conclusion. They opine “that we expect that within decades the traditional professions will be dismantled, leaving most, but not all, professionals to be replaced by less-expert people, new types of experts, and high-performing systems.”1
In an interesting article by Jen Wiecszer, she discusses how revolutionary AI has already become profoundly useful. She refers to the current reality that “IBM Watson could read a patient’s electronic medical record, analyze imagery of the cancer, and even look at gene sequencing of the tumor to figure out the optimal treatment plan for a particular person.”3
The phenomenon of computer technologies rivaling a doctor’s capabilities extends to many fields. For example, in a recent article in Nature, it was reported that AI systems rivaled the accuracy of 21 board certified dermatologists in the recognition of serious dermatologic conditions.4
And it is not just doctors who are at risk of, if not being replaced, certainly seeing their work change drastically with the advent of AI. Bernard Marr, in an interesting article in Forbes Magazine, suggests that many professions are at risk, or on the cusp of a massive transformation.5 He discusses the “top ten” professions at risk and they include: 1. healthcare, 2. insurance, 3. architects, 4. journalist, 5. financial industry, 6. teachers, 7. human resources, 8. marketing and advertising, 9. lawyers and 10. law enforcement.
Einstein is quoted as saying, “Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination.”6
Well, artificial intelligence is bringing brand new meaning to this quote. Indeed, the professional world is rapidly and disruptively changing as the adjective “stupid” is quickly becoming inaccurate.
If you have any thoughts about artificial intelligence and the implications for the medical profession, comment on the blog, or better yet, please drop by the Macklem House; my door is always open.