Our Not-So Human Future

Hospital_roomRobot soldiers, economic meltdowns, robot lovers, and autonomous drones and weapons—these are just a few of the items that make the list of Tech Republic’s “Ten Terrifying Uses of Artificial Intelligence.” But perhaps the scariest is the prospect of an increased reliance on artificial intelligence for medical treatment.

Tech gurus are already pouring billions of dollars—not to mention countless research hours—into building online collectives that will basically use artificial intelligence to serve as virtual personal assistants to doctors and healthcare workers in treating patients. These virtual portals can supposedly analyze data, develop a diagnosis, and offer a proposed course of treatment.

But with all the promise of seamless, efficient, and effective ways to meet the growing demands of healthcare, something essential is also being lost: the human factor. The practice of medicine isn’t just about getting the right algorithm in place or entering the right data—it is, in fact, an art that relies deeply on shared human experiences. The exchange—and bond—between patient and physician provides the groundwork for an environment of trust and care.

Most of us are at our most vulnerable when we are seeking medical treatment and we come to rely on the fact that we are receiving care from another individual who also knows what it’s like to be vulnerable at times and offers the proper respect that is merited to get us through a certain situation.

The over-reliance on artificial intelligence threatens to undermine the very foundations on which the practice of medicine has been built, and which it ultimately depends upon.

Reprinted with permission from the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Christopher White is the Director of Education and Programs for the Center for Bioethics and Culture.