MIND MATTERS: Will computers soon replace doctors?

Will there come a time when computers or robots will replace human doctors? I know I’ve thought about it. Have you? An article published Sunday, June 4, 2017, in a local newspaper addressed the use of IBM’s super computer to help in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer (“Researchers use IBM’s Watson to assess tumors’ genetic markers”). From that article, we learned that a physician at the Georgia Cancer Center was feeding raw genetic data sequenced from a very rare cancer into IBM Watson for Genomics, a computer system that is endowed with artificial intelligence that has helped it conquer other frontiers such as competing on the game show “Jeopardy.” Less than one minute after he had finished entering his data, he had a report back from the computer database that not only addressed the particular genetic mutations that he was concerned about but also told him about 10 medication trials that were already underway that might have implications in the treatment of his own patient. This is astounding. I can remember the days when researching anything meant going to the medical library, looking in card catalogues for physical cards, cross checking references, pulling large, heavy textbooks off of shelves and taking…


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