Machine Learning and the Profession of Medicine

Extract This Viewpoint discusses the opportunities and ethical implications of using machine learning technologies, which can rapidly collect and learn from large amounts of personal data, to provide individalized patient care. Must a physician be human? A new computer, “Ellie,” developed at the Institute for Creative Technologies, asks questions as a clinician might, such as “How easy is it for you to get a good night’s sleep?” Ellie then analyzes the patient’s verbal responses, facial expressions, and vocal intonations, possibly detecting signs of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, or other medical conditions. In a randomized study, 239 probands were told that Ellie was “controlled by a human” or “a computer program.” Those believing the latter revealed more personal material to Ellie, based on blind ratings and self-reports.1 In China, millions of…

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