Medicine’s race with the machines

2 minute read

Most of us have a hard time understanding the changes ahead for medicine, writes Dr Bryan Vartabedian

Like many professionals, I’m trapped in the now, writes US-based paediatric gastroenterologist Dr Bryan Vartabedian.

I function with dated workflows and connect with patients like doctors did a hundred years ago. Elements in our world are moving, however, but no one notices. Even those of us with a remote sense of the changes ahead have a hard time understanding what’s happening to us.

According to tech visionary Kevin Kelly we are in the process of becoming. Our technology and consequently our profession and ourselves are changing. While not referencing medicine, Kevin Kelly in The Inevitable could have been:

“The problem with constant becoming is that unceasing change can blind us to its incremental changes. In constant motion we no longer notice the motion. Becoming is thus a self-cloaking action often seen only in retrospect. More important, we tend to see new things from the frame of the old. We extend our current perspective to the future, which in fact distorts the new to fit into what we already know. That is why the first movies were filmed like theatrical plays and the first VRs shot like movies.”

And when we notice that we are under redefinition we become indignant and push back.

“This is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines.”

Here’s the important part of the race: How and if we choose to preserve those things that only we can do is entirely up to us. How we allow ourselves to be defined is something altogether different. Contrary to what every current physician believes, humans have agency.

If you’re a doctor or any other health care stakeholder clinging to a 20th century ideal of how and what a doctor should be, read Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable . If you dare.

This blog was originally published on 33charts.

Dr Bryan Vartabedian is a paediatric gastroenterologist at Baylor College of Medicine.

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