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Robots, technology and such rescuing the irony thread

#1 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2013-February-01, 07:58

View PostScarabin, on 2013-February-01, 00:11, said:

I do not think I am a Luddite but I would be interested in posters views on computers and robots taking over jobs, and on drones - I think the latter are a two-edged sword: At the moment they suit the west but what a weapon for a terror group!


This may well deserve a forum topic of it's own, but the brief answer is that I agree with you. I was listening to a brief discussion on NPR (public radio here) about how the national security approach of Obama, and his predecessor as well, shifts many responsibilities from the Pentagon and conventional warfare to the CIA, covert operations and, as an example, warfare by drones. The problems, I think, are real. When I was 3, the Japanese bombed Pear Harbor, we declared war, our armed forces went into battle with their armed forces. It simply is not done that way anymore. We have to deal with the world as it is, not as it was, but that is easier said then dome. We need to defend the country, we need to preserve liberty, we need to restrain government and hold it accountable. It is difficult to balance these matters in a complicated.world.

I won't go on, at least not for the moment, but I think that these are serious matters and the answers are far from clearcut.
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#2 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2013-February-01, 12:59

According to a guest on the Daily Show, an assistant professor with MIT (I think), her experience as a former F18 pilot and a current advisor on the development and use of remotely piloted aircraft (aka drones) was that the latter are far better than the former in many ways, including:

- cost
- decision making: a F18 pilot is acting on his or her own, with only a single tactical commander on the radio, whose ability to know what is going on is limited. A drone operator is part of a team, with a number of others capable of observing precisely what he is confronting and thus decision-making, in terms of firing weapons and targeting, is more reliable
- safety: obviously the drone operator is far safer than the F18 pilot, but the increased precision of the ordnance and the better decision making make for fewer collateral casualties and significantly reduced risk of friendly fire incidents.


Her thesis was also that as with many other forms of technologies developed primarily for military uses, civilian applications will soon become a major factor.

I think we can agree that some of these civilian applications will cause a lot of concern and may result in grief. I think it will be a long time before a civilian drone could wreak the havoc of a fully-fueled commercial airliner crashing into a building, but drones could be weaponized with anthrax or other biological weapons as well as more conventional items, such as explosives or nerve gas.

And Big Brother already uses drones and it would be naive to think that governments, the world over, won't expand such uses. The reality is that we no longer live in a free society, in so far as our ability to live without government surveillance is concerned. Even this forum is probably routinely monitored by a software program, as are virtually all emails and long-distance phone calls. It is unlikely that any human would ever look at anything written or spoken by most of us, but only because of volume constraints.

In the UK, especially in London, surveillance cameras are omnipresent, and private surveillance exists in many commercial areas in the US and Canada (and elsewhere), and a lot of private homes. The technology to monitor people, and the memory to store the observations, have been getting cheaper and cheaper and rate to continue doing so.

The fact is that matters like privacy are social constructs as much as any other 'right' might be. Our grandchildren will grow up (mine are growing up) in a world in which they will take it for granted that much of their lives will be accessible to others.

And as for technology: I saw a 60 Minutes segment the other day in which they said that robotics has led Phillips to move its electric razor business back to Europe from China. The robots are cheaper. However, the move gave rise to few new European jobs, and those were high-tech jobs manufacturing and servicing the robots. Hence, in large measure, the 'jobless recovery' in the US.

Fedex will probably be using unmanned aircraft for its freight business in a decade or two, costing a lot of pilots their jobs. Robots already assemble our cars. 3-dimensional printing is starting to replace old-fashioned machining.

What this seems to mean is that the role of the skilled or semi-skilled manual worker is vanishing. The jobs used to go to China, but it seems likely that China (and India) has only a limited time in which to enjoy that sort of outsourcing before it loses out to robots.

Science fiction has often portrayed the near-future (100-200 years ahead) as having a stratified society based on whether one has work or not, with the bulk of the population having none. That seems inevitable to me, and I am happy that my type of work won't vanish in the few years I have before retirement.

The same sort of science fiction routinely describes a world in which disgruntled individuals or groups possess the ability to wreak havoc. I see no way of avoiding that, and it may get worse not better. As the rich countries accelerate their progress, while simultaneously condemning many citizens to relative poverty and lack of opportunity, and as the fight for water and arable land (and defensible sea coasts) is driven by global warming, the reasons for strife will increase, rather than decrease. We are already seeing how the 'need' for security results in the loss of personal freedom, and that can't help but get worse as the potential for small groups or even solitary individuals to cause harm increases.
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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#3 User is offline   billw55 

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Posted 2013-February-01, 18:08

View Postmikeh, on 2013-February-01, 12:59, said:

Fedex will probably be using unmanned aircraft for its freight business in a decade or two, costing a lot of pilots their jobs. Robots already assemble our cars. 3-dimensional printing is starting to replace old-fashioned machining.

What a scary thought. I have a hard time believing this will happen within 20 years.

View Postmikeh, on 2013-February-01, 12:59, said:

Even this forum is probably routinely monitored by a software program

I knew that sneaky GIB was up to something.
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#4 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2013-February-01, 19:16

Not to highjack but alot of this robot stuff will be interesting as we learn the software and hardware of the brain and apply that knowledge to computers.

Many say this stuff is thousands or more years away, others point towards knowing some of this stuff(hardware) by 2020 and beyond prediction by 2050 :)

As for guns here is another article about 3d printing of guns.

http://www.kurzweila...tm_medium=email



"...The three may have had different motivations but their results were the same: each built a working gun that included a part made in plastic with a 3-D printer...."
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#5 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2013-February-01, 20:41

"a part". Critical or non-critical? Subject to explosive force or not?
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#6 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2013-February-01, 21:15

View Postblackshoe, on 2013-February-01, 20:41, said:

"a part". Critical or non-critical? Subject to explosive force or not?

If you read the article


They printed the part of an AR-15 assault rifle called the lower receiver, the central piece that other parts are attached to....not a part under great pressure, force.


But as to the future.....


All three built a working AR-15 at home but granted not mass produced.....yet

but robots that can kill and have killed may be the real story.
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#7 User is offline   Scarabin 

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Posted 2013-February-01, 21:32

View Postkenberg, on 2013-February-01, 07:58, said:

This may well deserve a forum topic of it's own, but the brief answer is that I agree with you. I was listening to a brief discussion on NPR (public radio here) about how the national security approach of Obama, and his predecessor as well, shifts many responsibilities from the Pentagon and conventional warfare to the CIA, covert operations and, as an example, warfare by drones. The problems, I think, are real. When I was 3, the Japanese bombed Pear Harbor, we declared war, our armed forces went into battle with their armed forces. It simply is not done that way anymore. We have to deal with the world as it is, not as it was, but that is easier said then dome. We need to defend the country, we need to preserve liberty, we need to restrain government and hold it accountable. It is difficult to balance these matters in a complicated.world.

I won't go on, at least not for the moment, but I think that these are serious matters and the answers are far from clearcut.


I thought of setting up a seperate topic but feared the degree of interest and scope of discussion would not justify this. So I left it as an offshoot of gun control, in a wider sense.
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#8 User is offline   Scarabin 

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Posted 2013-February-01, 21:56

View Postmikeh, on 2013-February-01, 12:59, said:

According to a guest on the Daily Show, an assistant professor with MIT (I think), her experience as a former F18 pilot and a current advisor on the development and use of remotely piloted aircraft (aka drones) was that the latter are far better than the former in many ways, including:

- cost
- decision making: a F18 pilot is acting on his or her own, with only a single tactical commander on the radio, whose ability to know what is going on is limited. A drone operator is part of a team, with a number of others capable of observing precisely what he is confronting and thus decision-making, in terms of firing weapons and targeting, is more reliable
- safety: obviously the drone operator is far safer than the F18 pilot, but the increased precision of the ordnance and the better decision making make for fewer collateral casualties and significantly reduced risk of friendly fire incidents.


Her thesis was also that as with many other forms of technologies developed primarily for military uses, civilian applications will soon become a major factor.

I think we can agree that some of these civilian applications will cause a lot of concern and may result in grief. I think it will be a long time before a civilian drone could wreak the havoc of a fully-fueled commercial airliner crashing into a building, but drones could be weaponized with anthrax or other biological weapons as well as more conventional items, such as explosives or nerve gas.

And Big Brother already uses drones and it would be naive to think that governments, the world over, won't expand such uses. The reality is that we no longer live in a free society, in so far as our ability to live without government surveillance is concerned. Even this forum is probably routinely monitored by a software program, as are virtually all emails and long-distance phone calls. It is unlikely that any human would ever look at anything written or spoken by most of us, but only because of volume constraints.

In the UK, especially in London, surveillance cameras are omnipresent, and private surveillance exists in many commercial areas in the US and Canada (and elsewhere), and a lot of private homes. The technology to monitor people, and the memory to store the observations, have been getting cheaper and cheaper and rate to continue doing so.

The fact is that matters like privacy are social constructs as much as any other 'right' might be. Our grandchildren will grow up (mine are growing up) in a world in which they will take it for granted that much of their lives will be accessible to others.

And as for technology: I saw a 60 Minutes segment the other day in which they said that robotics has led Phillips to move its electric razor business back to Europe from China. The robots are cheaper. However, the move gave rise to few new European jobs, and those were high-tech jobs manufacturing and servicing the robots. Hence, in large measure, the 'jobless recovery' in the US.

Fedex will probably be using unmanned aircraft for its freight business in a decade or two, costing a lot of pilots their jobs. Robots already assemble our cars. 3-dimensional printing is starting to replace old-fashioned machining.

What this seems to mean is that the role of the skilled or semi-skilled manual worker is vanishing. The jobs used to go to China, but it seems likely that China (and India) has only a limited time in which to enjoy that sort of outsourcing before it loses out to robots.

Science fiction has often portrayed the near-future (100-200 years ahead) as having a stratified society based on whether one has work or not, with the bulk of the population having none. That seems inevitable to me, and I am happy that my type of work won't vanish in the few years I have before retirement.

The same sort of science fiction routinely describes a world in which disgruntled individuals or groups possess the ability to wreak havoc. I see no way of avoiding that, and it may get worse not better. As the rich countries accelerate their progress, while simultaneously condemning many citizens to relative poverty and lack of opportunity, and as the fight for water and arable land (and defensible sea coasts) is driven by global warming, the reasons for strife will increase, rather than decrease. We are already seeing how the 'need' for security results in the loss of personal freedom, and that can't help but get worse as the potential for small groups or even solitary individuals to cause harm increases.


I think you have covered the subject fully and I can only offer a piece of subjective speculation. I think that most jobs may ultimately be taken over by robots, and that both wealth and power may end up concentrated in the hands of the shareholders and jobholders of a very few global major corporations (as you have said). If this happens I wonder if western capitalism can survive in its present form. Since the alternative of communism has already been discredited should we be looking to someone like Kuwait as a model for the future?

Since I am 81 and retired 20+ years ago my interest is fairly academic but I have noted that people living in big cities seem to find comfort in forming small local communities and that great discrepancies in wealth seem to increase dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Not earth shaking discoveries but maybe relevant?

I shudder at the prospect of gated and walled communities of the super-rich, protected against the disenfranchised "morlocks" by "super" drones.
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#9 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2013-February-01, 22:11

View PostScarabin, on 2013-February-01, 21:56, said:



I think you have covered the subject fully and I can only offer a piece of subjective speculation. I think that most jobs may ultimately be taken over by robots, and that both wealth and power may end up concentrated in the hands of the shareholders and jobholders of a very few global major corporations (as you have said). If this happens I wonder if western capitalism can survive in its present form. Since the alternative of communism has already been discredited should we be looking to someone like Kuwait as a model for the future?

Since I am 81 and retired 20+ years ago my interest is fairly academic but I have noted that people living in big cities seem to find comfort in forming small local communities and that great discrepancies in wealth seem to increase dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Not earth shaking discoveries but maybe relevant?

I shudder at the prospect of gated and walled communities of the super-rich, protected against the disenfranchised "morlocks" by "super" drones.




I think you discount the power of computers and how a rich family can become poor rather quickly.

Your vision could be overcome in a few generations, perhaps less than one.

As you note the few remaining survivors living behind walls in a horrible life.

----


In any event I hope and pray you are not afraid and in fact encourage those risk takers who fail more than succeed called entrepreneurs. I share your disrepect of crony capitalism.

----


edit btw Ithink your comment on small communities has much wisdom.
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#10 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2013-February-02, 16:54

View Postbillw55, on 2013-February-01, 18:08, said:

[/size]
What a scary thought. I have a hard time believing this will happen within 20 years.

Scientific American a month or two ago had a feature article on predictions for various technologies in the next 50, 100, and 150 years (a mirror of their regular column that recalls interesting bits from the issues 50, 100, and 150 years ago each month). They also predicted that the answer to the proverbial "where are the flying cars we were promised 50 years ago" will come in the form of drones, probably sometime in the next 50 years.

I think airlines are already flown about 90% of the time on auto-pilot. The humans only need to take over under special circumstances, and during takeoff and landing. In time we'll be able to improve this. And it's not like human pilots have to be totally out of the picture -- they'll just be in an office on the ground, called on by air traffic controllers to take remote control of the plane when actually needed.

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Posted 2013-February-02, 19:23

View PostScarabin, on 2013-February-01, 21:56, said:

I think you have covered the subject fully and I can only offer a piece of subjective speculation. I think that most jobs may ultimately be taken over by robots, and that both wealth and power may end up concentrated in the hands of the shareholders and jobholders of a very few global major corporations (as you have said). If this happens I wonder if western capitalism can survive in its present form. Since the alternative of communism has already been discredited should we be looking to someone like Kuwait as a model for the future?

Since I am 81 and retired 20+ years ago my interest is fairly academic but I have noted that people living in big cities seem to find comfort in forming small local communities and that great discrepancies in wealth seem to increase dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Not earth shaking discoveries but maybe relevant?

I shudder at the prospect of gated and walled communities of the super-rich, protected against the disenfranchised "morlocks" by "super" drones.


Maybe the thing we need to fear most is creeping corporate consolidation and its effects on innovation, investments in science and education, and the distribution of income.
If you lose all hope, you can always find it again. Richard Ford in The Sportswriter
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#12 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2013-February-02, 20:12

View Postmike777, on 2013-February-01, 21:15, said:

but robots that can kill and have killed may be the real story.

If you're talking about things like armed drones, they are not robots - there's a human intelligence running things, although not in the drone.

As far as robots are concerned, that would be the fault of the people programming the robots. After all, the Three Laws have been around since the 1950s. ;)
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#13 User is offline   Scarabin 

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Posted 2013-February-03, 01:36

View Postmike777, on 2013-February-01, 22:11, said:

I think you discount the power of computers and how a rich family can become poor rather quickly.

Your vision could be overcome in a few generations, perhaps less than one.

As you note the few remaining survivors living behind walls in a horrible life.

----


In any event I hope and pray you are not afraid and in fact encourage those risk takers who fail more than succeed called entrepreneurs. I share your disrepect of crony capitalism.

----


edit btw Ithink your comment on small communities has much wisdom.


Agree with your comments. Thanks for the compliment but don't feed my ego or paranoia, both are probably over-developed, already!
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Posted 2013-February-03, 11:46

From Raging (Again) Against the Robots by Catherine Rampell Published: February 2, 2013

Quote

In hindsight, historical fears of technological change look foolish, given that automation has increased living standards and rendered our workweeks both safer and shorter. In 1900, when nearly half the American labor force was employed in backbreaking agriculture, the typical worker logged 2,300 hours a year, according to Joel Mokyr, an economic historian at Northwestern University. Today that number is 1,800. (If you believe “The Jetsons,” by 2062 we’ll be working only two hours a week; Keynes had similar forecasts.)

That said, creative destruction is undoubtedly painful. Historically, the children of displaced workers have benefited from mechanization, but the displaced workers themselves have often been permanently passé.

“Every invention ever made caused some people to lose jobs,” says Mr. Mokyr. “In a good society, when this happens, they put you out to pasture and give you a golf club and a condo in Florida. In a bad society, they put you on the dole, so you have just enough not to starve, but that’s about it.”

And many economists today believe the transition will be even more difficult this time around.

Erik Brynjolfsson, an economics professor at M.I.T. and co-author of the book “Race Against the Machine,” argues that we have reached a sort of inflection point in productivity growth. It took expensive capital equipment to revolutionize farming and manufacturing; the marginal cost of the technologies (software and so on) producing the most recent gains in efficiency is near zero. Any job that can be reduced to an algorithm will be, leading to the displacement of workers in industries as diverse as retail and radiology.

That’s not to say there will be no new jobs to fill the void: we can scarcely imagine the industries and occupations that will flower as the economy adjusts, just as prior deep thinkers could not have conceived of today’s nanophysicists or social media consultants. The challenge, of course, is training or retraining workers quickly enough to take on new, higher-skilled roles.

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#15 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2013-February-03, 12:40

A few years back (maybe 1947 or so) I would buy this comic book that included the adventures of Robotman. I recall that we had discussions of whether this was to be pronounced Row-Boat-Man or Row-Baht-man or what.

Anyway, about worker displacement. Perhaps professors will be replaced by robots, but I think usually we are more thinking of my father. An immigrant, an orphan, an eighth grade education. He made his living, a pretty decent living, installing weather stripping in houses. He was born in 1900, and in the late sixties there were some changes. Older houses still needed new weather stripping, and I think that would have been difficult for a robot to do. But newer houses often were beginning to have windows with factory done stripping. Much of my father's work had consisted of contracting with construction companies. As the house was going up, he would come out and install the weather stripping. These jobs were beginning to dry up. The timing was convenient, since my father was in his sixties and was able to have a reasonably comfortable retirement.

OK, suppose my father was 20 and the weather stripping business was going belly up. No problem, I think. He learned to do weather stripping because there was a demand for it. If not, he would have learned to do something else.

The problem, I think, would have been if this happened when he was 50. He was a pretty capable guy and I think he would have coped, but clearly some wouldn't. (No real world example is ever completely simple. He had a stroke when he was 53 , but he recovered and I think he still would have coped. The market was in fact beginning to change even then, and he was coping.)

This is a social issue and I think that it is difficult. As I grew up it was pretty much planted fully in my brain that an essential attribute of adulthood is being self-supporting. But it was also assumed that if you learned how to do something useful, for example install weather stripping in a house, that skill would continue to be useful. It seems to me that there are still a lot of tasks that need doing, and a college education is not needed or even relevant. But there are some problems You cannot be totally stupid. And you may have to change careers when you are 50.

It's a tough situation.
Ken
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#16 User is offline   Scarabin 

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Posted 2013-February-04, 03:02

I fear that projecting current trends into the future may not prove accurate, and that ultimately almost every job, or at least the routine portion of every job, can be replicated by a machine or computer. Surgeons are being replaced by machines, computers are delivering tutorials - and many students prefer computers to live professors. Computers are rendering many of the functions carried out by actuaries unnecessary. Knowledge jobs are being taken over, not just manual or unskilled jobs.

Sure you can point out that the process is far from complete, but can you believe that the transformation is not ongoing? At the present time a fairly low level performer can outperform an expert with the aid of a computer, not so? My G.P. checks everything on his computer and flounders when his computer is down.

Maybe trial lawyers can escape this, but only as long as litigants prefer the luck of an adversorial process to automatic justice, and the system allows this choice?

This reads too much like a lyrical vision of the future and I apologise for this but I think my statements are fact-based.
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#17 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2013-February-04, 08:32

Both doctors and professors provide interesting examples. Over the last six months I have spent a fair amount of time with doctors. I am not dying or anything like that, but there are issues and they have to be addressed. There has been some intense personal interaction. We have all done the "Press 5 if you are calling about this or that" bit when we need to discuss a bill. That wouldn't cut it for my medical issues. There were judgments to be made by doctors about medical matters, judgments to be made by me about doctors, there were discussions and revised opinions. My idea of Hell would be to have these interactions with a robot.

As a prof, one of my success stories was with this aggressive advanced calculus student. He was in my office arguing about this, arguing about that, open to nothing. In exasperation I said "Look, we could go on with this for another hour, or you could consider, at least provisionally, that I have this job because I know what I am talking about and that your job is to understand what I am saying". Somehow this seemed to make sense to him, and he subsequently became one of the best students. I don't think a computer could have done that.

From the other side of the table, most of the profs I remember most fondly were in the humanities. I pretty much knew how to think about mathematics. I sometimes worked hard, sometimes not, but I understood what I was after. In the humanities I was a naif, to put it kindly. I didn't know Renoir from Rembrandt and I thought sushi was cooked rabbit. Two of my favorite profs were the bizarre but brilliant John Berryman and the very sane Paul Holmer. No one would program a computer to replicate Berryman, and if anyone could capture Holmer's humor and general warmth on a computer it would be quite a feat.

Computers can help, and help a lot, with education. But it requires thought. I recently was involved in an example of how not to do it. I'm retired, but not totally out of it. I took over a large lecture class for a guy in the hospital. There was electronically graded homework. Uh huh. The students would bring up the question on the computer, copy it into Wolfram alpha, push enter, and copy the answer back into the computer homework program. I am pretty sure that the powers that be have realized a need to address this. Or we could say we are training them for the future, teaching them how to be submissive to a computer program.
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#18 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2013-February-04, 09:39

View Postkenberg, on 2013-February-04, 08:32, said:

Both doctors and professors provide interesting examples. Over the last six months I have spent a fair amount of time with doctors. I am not dying or anything like that, but there are issues and they have to be addressed. There has been some intense personal interaction. We have all done the "Press 5 if you are calling about this or that" bit when we need to discuss a bill. That wouldn't cut it for my medical issues. There were judgments to be made by doctors about medical matters, judgments to be made by me about doctors, there were discussions and revised opinions. My idea of Hell would be to have these interactions with a robot.

I don't think anyone expects computers to take over the extreme cases of professions like this any time in the foreseeable future. But when I go to the doctor's office, I almost always get seen by a Physician's Assistant or Nurse Practicioner, not the real M.D. It's likely that many of their jobs could be replaced by computers. And do we need a nurse taking my blood pressure, pulse, etc.? There's one of those automatic blood pressure machines at the gym, doctor's offices could certainly use more advanced, accurate versions.

On the other hand, much of what the PA does is social, not medical. A person telling you you need to lose weight will have more impact than a computer -- you feel shame when a person points out something like this.

#19 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2013-February-04, 09:55

The VA clinic here has two "teams" for primary care. At the moment, my primary care guy is a doctor, but for a while, a few years ago, she was a NP - she's the one who immediately put me on Lisinopril when my BP was a bit high at a routine checkup. Several years later, I either became allergic to Lisinopril, or an existing allergy to it manifested. I was taken off the drug and given no replacement. My BP has been fine. <_<

The doctor told me for years that I needed to control my weight. It wasn't until he diagnosed me with type II diabetes that I finally really started to do something about it. My blood sugar is still a bit high, but it's lower than it was and so are all my other numbers. Mark Twain had the wrong idea ("when I feel the urge to exercise, I lay down until it passes"). B-)
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#20 User is offline   Scarabin 

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Posted 2013-February-04, 15:52

I agree with every point made, and I hate interacting with phone robots but don't they reduce delays? Let me play "devil's advocate" some more.

We will always need some human interaction but hopefully we will always have parents, family and friends.

As regards our preference for human interaction perhaps cost - a sort of minimalism - will overrule this. Example: medicare is too expensive: perhaps it could become affordable if the knowledge part were provided by computers (fast and accurate and infinitely patient) and only the sample-taking etc was performed by humans? This could be justified by saying it was the only way to provide universal care even though it increased the proportion of patients dying due to faulty treatment? Second example: think how we use Wikipedia even though we know it may be inaccurate.

Is laser surgery an example of machines taking over?
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