Remember those people who told you a career in healthcare was a safe thing to pursue because there would “always be a need for nurses?” Wrong. It turns out that, again, computer programming and the tech industry are the only sure places to look for a job.
Apparently, all the people who thought that developing artificial intelligence and its predecessor — cognitive computing — were a good idea are up to their antics again. According to Marketplace, IBM envisions a world in which a patient walks into a doctor’s office, has a conversation with a computer (which records and saves the data provided by the patient), and then relays that information, along with other general medical information, to the doctor.
IBM thinks this is a really great idea; doubtless it is an idea that could potentially become a goldmine for the company that brings the idea to fruition. However, I do not think it is a really great idea when considered in light of all the registered nurses and licensed practical nurses who are now going to have their jobs taken from them by a computer that doesn’t need lunch breaks or health insurance. All that talk you do in a doctor’s office before actually seeing the doctor? You are most likely talking to a nurse, who is taking your health history, running it through his or her brain, and then relaying that information to the doctor through use of the chart. But not for long.
And before you breathe a sigh of relief that you have been spared, medical students, be warned that your future jobs appear less and less secure every day. Steve Gold, an IBM vice president quoted by Marketplace, says this: “Medical information doubles every three years. And in 2020, it will be doubling every 73 days. Your doctor’s not going to be able to keep pace with that volume of information…. But Watson [the super computer of Jeopardy! fame] has a voracious appetite.”
A voracious appetite, indeed. Yes, this computer will be able to do things that doctors can’t. You, future physician, are going to be competing for your job against a machine that can not only store huge amounts of data, but one that will soon be able to make decisions and have conversations as part of this cognitive computing.
If you are like me and every day feel like you made a terrible mistake by studying the humanities, and if you regret not getting into the healthcare field when you had the chance, don’t feel like you passed up an opportunity to study nursing or medicine. You didn’t. You just lost your job to a computer more quickly than the nurse or the doctor will. Their turn is coming too, though, and then we will all bow down together and kiss the rings of our robot overlords and wonder why people like Steve Gold ever thought this was a good idea.
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