I just had a very interesting discussion today. One of my friends, who is a sociologist, shared a link about a women expressing disappointment about her surgery. She had her intestines operated, then the recovery period went bad. She had hernia, vast amount of flourishing scar tissue, etc. The interesting part was how this thread continued. I was expressing my disappointment about the financial situation of local hospitals and the incompetence of some doctors I had encountered, when a young doctor and a traumatologist joined the conversation. The whole conversation led to the conclusion of theirs, explaining the education of med students are impressive, while the system has deficiencies of various levels. The whole thing reminded me to my mother, who places doctors above mortal men. In her eyes, they are our commited saviors, a blessing to society. And many of the doctors kinda have the same oppinion about themselves, which made me think.
First of all, I don’t believe everyone and everything should be cured. Biological evolution has stopped because humans have the technological power to sustain life of the weak. Since diabetes is not lethal nowadays, its genes that increase the risk of having it, is transmitted to our kids in greater amount. But declaration of rules about who we should cure is more than dictatoric. What would I say if my life partner would die because the law doesn’t let to cure her? I’d be shocked. However, I think some regulation will hit at some level, like at Foxes and Rabbits. We are simply too many on this planet, and that will change. I don’t have idea how will it happen, but I’m pretty sure it will.
So, back to doctors, and their god-complex. I had two major operations until now, and I’m thankful for their work. However, if I had to define their work, I’d say they use skills and knowledge, things that can, and probably will be replaced by computers in the future. Let’s take the laser eye surgery. Hyper-precise femto-lasers cut the eye tissue better than any surgeon ever would. Take a look at invasive operations. Ingredients are: evaluation of the available data (diagnosys), surgical planning, precise use of the tools (cutting with scalpel, stiching), and post-surgical healthcare. There are already several decision making systems in the market. For example at diagnoses of eye illnesses by computers are already as accurate like the ones of a doctor. Medical science started roughly two thousand years ago with Hippocrates, while computer science started about one hundred years ago, roughly by the invention of semiconductors. The first personal computer was made about 50 years ago, so computer science is still in his very early age. But still, a computer can be as good at chess as the world champion, an embedded computer can drive a car more efficiently than a professional racecar driver, simply because it is capable to do differential equations in real time, unlike the human who relies solely on experience and muscle memory. Computers can collect the knowledge of all doctors on the planet and make decisions based on statistics of this united experience. They provide computational power that we could barely imagine. And using computer vision, a planned surgery can, and will be executed more precisely in the near future than it could be by and human medic. Diagnosys and automated surgical planning is also a matter of years. The post-surgical healthcare might involve human assistance, but mainly for emotional purposes. Who knows, maybe we would even skip that phase, since machines will heal us immediately. Nanotechnology is no science fiction any longer. I can easily imagine intelligent nanobots replacing our white blood cells in order to vanquish cancer and AIDS like a flu. Some day, many jobs filled in by humans will be replaced by machines, It would be inbelieveable than we can regulate the chain-reaction by a computer, but can’t replace the knowledge and skills of a doctor. And how about intelligence? It might be replaced by decisions based on statistics. How about creativity? Well, it might be replaced by predictions using a huge knowledge base. Imagine a world, where the doctor of yours knows all the files, procedures and outcomes of cases like yours from the last fifty years all around the world. It compares your symptoms to all illnesses that might fit, with the exact percentages of fitness. It can give you the most probabe diagnosys. It can plan your medications, your surgery, the best way to install a prosthesis according to a simulation of optimal tension of the parts, using a procedure that minimizes risk and gives you the shortest recovery time. Or Imagine a world where your blood are full of tiny perfect robots, that can regulate things that you can’t manage on your own. I think it’s far more likely that cancer will be vanquished by an engineer rather than a chemist, or a doctor.
As a conclusion, the new god-occupation is at engineering and IT, not at healthcare. At least we should educate medical engineers, not only doctors. The largest gap between our computers and us lies in creativity. It lies in research. We all should do research, and automate tasks that can be automated. Surgeons reading this might have higher blood pressure by now, but they have to accept that their sun is setting, as we all accept that they are still doing better than computers in many aspects of medicine, and our smartphones are still not smart enough to perform surgery on us. Yet.