Bring It, Mr. Robot

So my wife showed me an article about robots taking over the professions, including the role of physicians. These are published regularly anymore and I’m not sure what to make of them. I’m pretty sure I don’t like the terms “empathizer,” “knowledge engineer,” or “system provider.”

I remember reading an article about computer operating systems (Windows, specifically) many years ago in which the author derisively called them “file loaders.” That’s how I feel about empathizers who can’t feel emotion yet are touted as being able to fake them for the benefit of patients–or maybe I should call them clients.

Most readers know my opinion of the notion of robots taking over the world. I think it’s unlikely. I doubt there’ll be much less for professionals like me to do. I’ve not seen a gadget yet that failed to frustrate me by either not working the way it was claimed to–or not working at all.

Just what are the tasks “we prefer to leave in the hands of human beings” as the Susskinds put it? They don’t say and maybe that’s because they can’t think of any. Oh, all right, I haven’t read their book so maybe I should allow for the possibility they mention them in it.

I do agree with them about medical journal articles:

A new medical journal article is published every 40-something seconds. If 2% of that medical literature is relevant for a doctor, then it would take 23 hours a day to read all those journal articles. That’s just not possible.

Maybe there’s a message in that for the Presidents and CEOs of the medical boards, specifically the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Maybe Dr. Lois Nora, MD, JD, MBA could consider that with respect to the secure examinations currently inflicted on diplomates every 10 years, the value and meaning of which a few specialty board leaders are starting to doubt.

If rank and file doctors can’t keep up with the journal articles, how are those in charge of writing board exam questions going to do any better? If a robot could digest the material and summarize what’s most relevant for practicing physicians, what would we need Maintenance of Certification (MOC) for? On second thought, we don’t need it now.

Anyway, I get it that the Czech word “robota” means “drudgery and toil” and that artificial intelligence could “free doctors up to spend more time with their patients.”

Wait a minute. Won’t the physician shortage cut into that extra time? I suppose not if you figure empathizers will be taking over the medical and psychiatric clinics.

I suppose the knowledge engineers might also take over teaching residents and medical students. Could they do what I do every day? I’m sure they could handle the toil of giving powerpoint lectures.

I don’t think of myself as a gatekeeper of knowledge, withholding it from learners and patients, “only disseminating it upon considerable payment.” I give this stuff away every day. I’m a firm believer that expert knowledge should be widely shared. By the way, when I was working for real engineers (not just knowledge engineers) in another life, one of them (his name was Walt) was fond of telling me regularly that the word “expert” came from two latin words, “ex” (meaning “has been”) and “spurt” meaning “a drip under pressure.”

Hi, I’m an expert.

I can disseminate powerpoint talks and so can any file loading system provider. You can view the slide set of the introduction to consultation psychiatry lecture below for free.

But you won’t get my antics unless I give it in person. Can a robot do antics?

In order to see the picture galleries of photos or powerpoint slides, click on one of the slides, which will open up the presentation to fill the screen. Use the arrow buttons to scroll left and right through the slides or up and down to view any annotations. I only get two lectures a year to the junior lectures on consultation psychiatry–I have to cram stuff.

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