Are you for or against artificial intelligence in medicine? With the rise of machine learning in healthcare this is becoming more common question. When confronted with this question, MIT’s Max Tegmark responds, “Are you for or against fire?” Fire of course can keep us warm but can also be mishandled by arsonists and others with nefarious intent.
The problem is our response to artificial intelligence in medicine
Technology is inherently neutral. It’s the end users that are not neutral. To some extent we can control what technologies are created. We need to begin to recognize that we have agency over how technology is used and in what capacity. It is our response to technology that’s the problem.
Health professionals tend to have a deterministic view of technology. We’re victims of what’s created on our behalf – it seems we are just along for the ride. Listen to the public conversations of physicians and you’ll hear a profession preoccupied with their role as victims of technology. Medicine is in the midst of its greatest transformation yet our biggest concern is health records that don’t look like paper. While user experience is important, it’s a blip on the radar of where we medicine is headed.
Artificial intelligence is an asteroid moment for physicians
Artificial intelligence is our asteroid moment. Deciding how AI fits between us and our patients is one of the most important decisions we will face in medicine this century. To reiterate, it is a decision. And so it’s up to us, Tegmark reminds us, how we choose to shape and use artificial intelligence in medicine.
Technology isn’t bad and technology isn’t good; technology is an amplifier of our ability to do stuff. And the more powerful it is, the more good we can do and the more bad we can do. I’m optimistic that we can create this truly inspiring, high-tech future as long as we win the race between the growing power of the technology and the growing wisdom with which we manage it.
Progress is inevitable. It’s the trajectory of that progress as it relates to artificial intelligence in patient care that has to be shaped by the humans who create it.
As Tegmark suggests in his book, Life 3.0, instead of asking ‘What should happen?’ we should instead be thinking, ‘What future do we want?’ Or in the words of Irwin Corey, “If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.”
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Modified November 6, 2018 at 1230 CST.