How anaesthesia and intensive care will be affected by Dr. Google, Dr. Watson and Prof. Bot

Sunday 4 June, 11h00-11h45, Room C

An interesting insight into how future technology will affect anaesthesia and intensive care will be given by Professor Andreas Hoeft, Chair Elect and Director of Anaesthesia and Intensive Medicine at University Hospital Bonn, Germany.

According to Moore’s law the complexity and speed of computer processors, as well as storage capacity, will double every 12 to 24 months. Indeed, this law has held true from 1965 until the present day. Simultaneously, internet traffic continues to grow at a rate of 20-25% per year.

However, the most disruptive technology to arrive in the future will be cognitive computing and artificial intelligence (AI). AI has been hyped for more than four decades, but it has been through several cycles of enthusiasm as well as so called “AI winters”.  Professor Hoeft says: “The simultaneous availability of big data and new tools for big data analysis, new technologies for semantic analysis of unstructured data, cloud computing and machine learning will facilitate a leap in AI, which will also impact medicine.”

Cloud based systems will soon easily pass the Turing test, i.e. for users it will be indiscernible whether they communicate with a human being or a machine, including emulation of empathy and emotions. Professor Hoeft says: “Machines like ‘Dr. Google, Dr. Watson and Prof. Bot’ will be able to provide personal health consultation, and this could endanger many disciplines in medicine including anaesthesia and intensive care. While this technology will offer improvements in care to areas in the world which are medically underserved, it will also threaten the livelihood of physicians in developed countries.”

On the other hand, AI and cloud computing will add significantly to quality of patient care and patient safety in hospitals, by interfacing super-intelligent decision support systems with hospital information systems. Professor Hoeft concludes: “The crucial question remains to be, how long it will take: 5, 15 or 50 years? As the physicist Neils Bohr once remarked, ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future’.”