Tag Archives: healthcare

Why Doctors Hate Their Computers

Digitization promises to make medical care easier and more efficient. But screens are coming between doctors and their patients. [Atul Gawande] www.newyorker.com…

Thoughtful article about problems that ensue when digitization imposes top-down centralized command on front-line workers.

Why People Still Use Fax Machines [Sophie Haigney/The Atlantic]

Fax machines are still in widespread use in law enforcement and medicine.

An early facsimile message was sent over telegraph lines in London in 1847, based on a design by the Scottish inventor Alexander Bain. There is some dispute over whether it was the first fax: Competing inventors, including Bain in the United Kingdom and Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell across the Atlantic, sought to father facsimile technology, which was a kind of white whale for inventors. Telegraphs already allowed messages to be passed across distances, one letter at a time using Morse code. But the dream of transmitting copies of messages and images instantly over wires was very much alive. Writing in 1863, Jules Verne imagined that the Paris of the 1960s would be replete with fax machines, or as he called them, “picture-telegraphs.”

The technology did eventually lead to a revolution in communication, though it didn’t happen until years later. It first became known to many Americans after the 1939 New York World’s Fair, where a fax machine transmitted newspaper images from around the world at a rate of 18 minutes per page—lightning speed for the time.

“In an age of instantaneous information and images, it is hard to appreciate the magic that millions in the 1930s experienced upon seeing photographs of distant disasters appear the next day in their newspapers, or the excitement in the 1980s of watching an exact copy of a letter emerge line by line from a machine connected to the telephone network,” Jonathan Coopersmith writes in his book Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine.

Faxing really took off in the ’80s, in offices around the world. It caused major changes in the speed of business transactions, allowing individuals and companies to disseminate materials quickly and broadly—someone in an office building in Japan could fire off a document to the United States instantly. It also served as a precursor to today’s digital-image culture: Fax allowed for the speedy dissemination of pictures of all kinds. This gave rise to so-called creative faxers who, Coopersmith writes, faxed “pizza orders, song requests, party invitations, greeting cards, ski reports, amniocentesis results, baby footprints, children’s drawings, and vows of eternal love.” People faxed Santa Claus. They faxed God, via the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

But its reign was short-lived.

The ‘feel-good’ horror of late-stage capitalism [ThinkProgress]

These kinds of feel-good stories drive me crazy when they turn up on the news. If we offered maternity leave, a livable minimum wage, and affordable healthcare, people wouldn’t have to rely on handouts from co-workers. Nobody should have to walk to work twenty miles because they can’t afford a car and we don’t provide public transit. We should not celebrate our societal failures as feel-good news.

Link

It’s easy to derive the wrong lesson here. The point is not that Ayn Rand was a hypocrite. If you have strongly held political principles, you can’t live in the world without compromising them.

The point is that it’s impossible to build a market-driven healthcare system that works. Even the 20th Century’s greatest advocate of free markets needed government social programs to stay alive.

Link

Co-founder Peter Diamandis predicts that within the next decade, self-driving cars will eliminate driving fatalities, artificial intelligence will surpass the skills of human doctors and remove inefficiencies from health care systems, AIs will invent new pharmaceuticals to cure previously fatal diseases and 3D print customized medicines based on the genetic analysis of individual patients, and cheapening production costs will make this care essentially free.

And that’s just the beginning for Silicon Valley’s Singularity University.

It’s common for tech industry rhetoric to invoke the ideal of a better world, but since its 2008 inception, Singularity University has articulated an astonishingly ambitious series of goals and projects that use technological progress for philanthropic ends. Medicine is just one of many domains that Diamandis wants to fundamentally change. He and others at Singularity are also working to develop and support initiatives that will provide universal access to high-quality education, restore and protect polluted environments, and transition the economy to entirely sustainable energy sources.

His audience was a group of 98 executives from 44 countries around the world; each had paid $14,000 to attend the weeklong program at Singularity University’s NASA Research Park campus in Mountain View, California. As Diamandis moved through the sectors of the economy that artificial intelligence would soon dominate—medicine, law, finance, academia, engineering—the crowd seemed strangely energized by the prospect of its imminent irrelevance. Singularity University was generating more than $1 million of revenue by telling its prosperous guests that they would soon be surpassed by machines.

But his vision of the future was nonetheless optimistic. Diamandis believes that solar energy will soon satisfy the demands of the entire planet and replace the market for fossil fuels. This will mean fewer wars and cleaner air. Systems for converting atmospheric humidity into clean drinking water will become cheap and ubiquitous. The industrial meat industry will also vanish, replaced by tastier and healthier laboratory-grown products with no environmental downsides. He also predicts that exponential increases in the power of AI would soon render teachers and universities superfluous. The best education in the world will become freely available to anyone.

I’ve previously laughed at this kind of thinking as crazy optimism, but I’m not laughing now. Sure, it’s Utopianism, and Utopia is unachievable, but we need more Utopian thinking. We’ve become small and petty and afraid. Only by Utopian thinking to we make a better world.

Like the saying goes, if you aim for the stars, even if you miss you can hit the moon.

So shine on you crazy Singulatarian diamonds.

Singularity University: The Harvard of Silicon Valley Is Planning for a Robot Apocalypse [Nick Romeo – The Daily Beast]