Could Tyler Cowen be raising awareness of a failure of Information Revolution to trickle down to the common man, just as it begins to rain buckets.

For a long time a certain set of economists has griped about health care. One of my particular gripes has been the very concept of a physician in the modern era.

A physician is more or less a human database and an incredibly expensive one. With medical training we basically take some of the most valuable brains on earth and hack them into doing something a brain is not intended to do: store and retrieve massive amounts specific information on demand with very low error rates.

On the other hand we have this machine called a computer which does this effortlessly and at low cost. Bare minimum we should forget about cramming drug interactions into human minds and just let them look it up in a database.

But, why not take it a step further and just get rid of the human altogether? Literally tens of thousands of people die every year because doctors are, well, only human, and make diagnostic mistakes which can later be identified as violating evidence based medicine.

The problem I always saw was how to convince people that yes, a computer can beat House, MD. Well IBM can’t go head-to-head with House but maybe beating Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter might help.

Looks like that’s what they had in mind for Watson. From IBM

Beyond Jeopardy!, the technology behind Watson can be adapted to solve problems and drive progress in various fields. The computer has the ability to sift through vast amounts of data and return precise answers, ranking its confidence in its answers. The technology could be applied in areas such as healthcare, to help accurately diagnose patients, to improve online self-service help desks, to provide tourists and citizens with specific information regarding cities, prompt customer support via phone, and much more.

For now,  I see via Dan Bowman, that IBM is saying very kind, political things like

“You’re never going to replace a trained doctor or nurse,” Dr. Joseph Jasinski, a member of IBM Research’s healthcare and life sciences team said in the video. “But certainly a system like Watson could be a physician’s assistant. It could help to check on things: ‘Did you consider this? Did you consider that?’”

This is how you always open. Oh don’t worry. You’re irreplaceable. We’re just here to help. I mean a robot can lift heavy things for you, but you’ll always need a trained autoworker.

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