AI healthcare: Can it take our jobs?

Photo by Mark Arron Smith on

There’s no easy answer to it. Though, to cut a long story short, artificial intelligence (AI) is going to “reshape” the jobs.

There’s an interesting economics paper here that provided the motivation for this write up. It is a long, worthy read and is possibly considered as a classic. However, the immediate provocation was the opinion piece from Financial Times.

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To summarise the paper, here’s what the author from FT has written:

First, they pointed out (correctly) that it is misleading to talk of robots — or any other technology — taking jobs. Instead, machines perform tasks, a narrower unit of work. Since most jobs involve many different tasks, robots do not take jobs, but they may radically reshape them. A robot accountant is not C-3PO; it’s Excel or QuickBooks

I agree partially; the same argument can be extended to hospitals- accounting takes place there too. However, the immediate “danger” appears to be in image classification and radiology. Google seems to have taken the lead in identifying mammograms but I have a strong reason to believe that it is more of a hype cycle. I’d be curious to know their workflow; especially validation of the images analysed by the AI.

In the morass of information!

The Artificial Intelligence Index project, based at Stanford University, tracks a wide variety of benchmarks. The machines are making rapid progress at symbolic achievements — such as playing poker — but also at translation, speech recognition, and classifying diseases such as skin cancer (from images of moles) and diabetes (from images of retinas).

Diabetic Retinopathy has specific traits and if you feed ANY algorithm millions of images, it would start “interpreting” them anyway. These are specific patterns and I really don’t agree that it is a ground breaking development. Telemedicine is fraught with its hassles and hasn’t reached prime time, yet.

So — will the machines take all the jobs in the coming decade? No, and that remains an unhelpful way to phrase the question. Machines encroach on tasks, and we reorganize our jobs in response, becoming more productive as a result.

But there is good reason to believe that such reorganizations will be wrenching in the decade to come, and also that some people will be permanently unable to contribute economically in the way they would have hoped and expected.

As usual, it only forms the nucleus of my thought process and further exploration in later posts.