AI will see you next

Hi Gillian, how can I help you today?”

I’m not feeling well.

“Okay. I can help you figure out what’s happening. What symptom is bothering you the most?”

Nasal congestion.

“How long has it been bothering you for?”

One week.

“Do you have pressure or pain in your sinuses?”

Yes.

“Do you have a cough?”

Yes.

……

This is the beginning of a conversation I recently had with artificial intelligence on a phone App. It searched it’s algorithm of symptoms to ask the right questions based on my answers to the previous questions and identified the most likely differential diagnoses faster and more accurate than most clinicians could.

Knowing that a computer can take over the most interesting and difficult part of my job as a clinician is unnerving, but not the least bit surprising.

After all, we have computers capable of reading x rays, searching information, driving cars, steering planes, planning complicated routes and performing hundreds of other jobs that humans don’t do consistently well at.

The thing is, we worry about being replaced by people who are less knowledgeable or educated than us and ignore the fact the computer and the Internet are now the most powerful information systems on the planet.

People boycott AI technology (like self-check-in and checkout machines) because they kill jobs. But if a computer is capable of doing a job more efficiently and effectively than a human could and make our lives better, why not use it?

Artificial intelligence replaces human jobs – jobs that used to demand extensive knowledge and skills – so slowly that most of us aren’t shocked when it happens. And when it happens, our jobs aren’t to do our jobs anymore.

We can see AI as a threat, or we can see it as an opportunity to provide better care and focus on doing work that a computer could never do.

In the foreseeable future, AI might be seeing you next.