Will doctors become obsolete as technology takes over?

Like other complex professions, this one will have holes drilled into it like a swiss cheese. More and more holes over time, until what remains will be unrecognizable by current standards.

Every time such a hole is drilled, those displaced will seek employment elsewhere in the profession. This will increase competition for the remaining positions, decreasing wages and working conditions.

The first hole has been drilled: IBM Watson has a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic that is automating much of medical diagnosis. For marketing purposes, IBM always couches these partnerships in terms of "helping" the human workers. But do not be fooled: the only human workers helped will be those not replaced; if them.

As I see it, within two decades the only significant role remaining for doctors will be translating complex medical diagnoses and procedures into layman's terms and doing so with wonderful people skills. (This is true of professions in general, with few exceptions.)

Eventually, AIs and the robots they control will also embody the people skills, with a reasonable facsimile of compassion. Those of us alive today may prefer human doctors, but some of us-and possibly all in generations yet to come-will not care.

We are approaching a post-work, post-scarcity world. We are doing so with increasing speed. The question is whether we will arrive gracefully or with brutal disruptions.


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