There can be few professions that engage as actively as doctors must, along the spectrum of intelligence in both the analytic sense and the emotional one. On the one hand, they are scientists of many years training, determining diagnoses and writing prescriptions based on all that learning and on the evidence that presents itself. On the other: contending with the crooked timber of humanity and its foibles, imaginings and odd distempers, exercising a forgiving and fuzzy logic based as much on experience of what tends to work, as on whatever the textbooks say.
Two articles over recent days have thrown these two profiles into relief: the first in the form of a letter to the British Medical Journal from one of the UK’s famously forthright general practitioners, complaining that nagging at patients to behave responsibly is counter-productive, unappreciated and debilitating. The second is an article in the online Epoch Times, wondering at the advances of intelligent machines in the area of medical diagnostics and asking if we will soon be visiting “RoboDocs”.
Given the work already being undertaken by online diagnostic packages like Isabel Symptom Checker, VisualDx and Merge Healthcare, it would appear that the BMJ GP and thousands like her are already well on their way to some significant job re-definition. Maybe an increased focus on patient advocacy, simultaneously punching up to authority while retaining the nagging role, will help her keep her hand in.
Lively Stuff from Planet BAM!
- Oliver Sacks died yesterday: neurologist who bore witness to the humanity of his patients
In most of the profiles that are pouring forth around the world — that above from the Brisbane Times or this one in The New York Times – at least three things stand out among the man’s many quirks and passions. One was his spectrum of fascination, along which whole libraries of arts and sciences sat comfortably. Second, and drawn from that special place where arts and sciences occasionally intersect, was his love for music and what it does in enabling a more intimate knowledge of the human mind. Finally, his professional interest in neurology was not dispassionately clinical but provided a pathway in even the oddest cases to appreciating what the malfunctioning brain could tell us about ourselves.
- Testing the water for research into bionic brains: how will we know it when we see it?
Compensating for sensory deficits and enhancing the senses we have: check. Eyes and ears are getting stronger. Bio-engineered memory chips are further off. Turbo-charged minds cogitating beyond the current limits of human powers? Don’t hold your breath.
- Looking ahead to the science fictions that could become facts: just ignore the distractions
Should a website that works so hard for your attention be this careless with it once they have it? But one good idea amidst the clickbait: “Internet everywhere” in biometric smart dust . . .