Dr. Watson I presume?

There’s an IBM commercial featuring Bob Dylan speaking to the Watson Supercomputer.   If you get a chance, watch it on YouTube.  If you’re like me, you’ll wonder what in heaven’s name the commercial is about.  Again, my curiosity got the best of me, so I started snooping around.

Actually, you don’t need Sherlock Holmes to uncover this mystery.

Google knows everything that’s happening on the Internet. Amazon knows what we’re buying. Your cable company knows what you watch on TV and how long you’re online. Apple and Samsung know where you are through your phone or other smart devices.  Privacy is a myth.

And soon, “Watson” will know everything about your healthcare.  Like it or not, the era of BIG DATA is upon us.

We’re being gently nudged, programmed, cajoled and desenstitized into accepting this intrusion into our lives.  After all, Google gives us free email and access to answers to every question we have.  Amazon allows us to sit at home and shop all over the world.  Salesforce and Bloomberg give businesses the information they need to enhance business and create profit.  Credit card companies allow us to spend money we don’t even have.  I ask you; who doesn’t love their Apple or Samsung phone?  And, IBM’s Watson healthcare supercomputer can have a conversation with Baby Boomer icon, Bob Dylan!  How can any of this be bad?

Big data is just a phase, an interim one, which will lead to the next revolutionary phase called “THE SINGULARITY”. And, it’s happening already.

The idea of a singularity sounds wonderful.  Computers joining forces, sharing information that can help humans become more knowledgeable, efficient, safer and healthier.  What’s wrong with that?  Could this be the Orwellian “Big Brother” of “1984?”

I’m concerned. The concept behind this singularity is that some supercomputer can know what’s best for you and me.  We’re at risk of loosing our individuality, if not our freedom. As a baby boomer, that’s important to me even as I realize that it’s not as important to Gen-Xers and even less to Millennials, many whom seem obsessed with posting anything and everything on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Instagram etc. so that others can peek into their minds and into their lives. So, why wouldn’t we let a “benevolent” singularity computer control parts of our lives that already seem too complicated?  They use terms such as “evidence-based”, “Individualized” and “to enhance human expertise” that seem so logical, personal and well meaning.

Am I a little paranoid?   Have I watched and read too much sci-fi?  I look behind the curtain and see the Wizard manipulating the controls, much as we saw in the Emerald City in the Land of Oz.

What does this have to do with health care?

IBM’s “Watson,” a supercomputer capable of “cognition” sounds wonderful, but there is a huge potential for abuse, particularly as it relates to your privacy and your health.  How will a “Singularity,” concerned about cost-control, impact your ability to make your own decisions?  Will your access to care be limited by such a directive?  Will you get the individual attention and care that you’ve been used to?

Watson has already partnered with Apple and Medtronics, one of the largest producers of medical devices.  It will gather “Big Data” from multiple sources (like your iWatch) and allow “people” (insurance companies and government?) to make better decisions about their (your) health.  Science fiction?  It’s already being used at Memorial Sloan Kettering (in conjunction with the insurance company, WellPoint), where the goal is to “to transform how doctors provide individualized cancer treatment plans and to help improve patient outcomes.”  Sounds great!?!  And besides, Bob Dylan gives it his OK!

I bring this up because we’re gliding down a very slippery slope and we’re gaining momentum.  I, for one, see this gaining traction and speed. I want to feel a human touch and have a trusting relationship with someone who has my health and my life in their hands, even if they are only human hands. I’d rather not have my next physical with Dr. “Watson”.

Watch this and let me know what you think:https://youtu.be/yV_6sd32oW0?t=75

To everyone’s good health and wellness,

Michael

P.S.  I just can’t wait to hear Dr. Watson say; “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”-2001 A Space Odyssey