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When artificial intelligence meets real people

At the Taipei Computex expo in Taipei on May 30.I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg

Haven’t doctors had enough new tech systems to grapple with?

Great. First the computer whizzes dumb us doctors down with illogical, balky software, then they gobble up more resources to smarten us up with artificial intelligence (“Doctors, hospitals dream big on AI but move slowly,” Page A1, May 31). I thank the reporter, Jessica Bartlett, for warning against AI “further fracturing the relationship patients have with their physicians.”

When our practice got a new computer system in the 1990s, I had my patients sit next to me and look at the computer screen with me as I typed in their history to make sure I got it right. I thought computers could promote the doctor-patient relationship.


But the other day I spent an hour with the help of hospital tech support to order a blood transfusion that used to take seconds to order on a sheet of paper. Then I spent more time in the medical record to get the wording right so that coders would recognize the diagnosis so that we’d get paid, even though the wording that payors look for isn’t what we learn from the latest research.

If we weren’t distracted by the computers, we could take care of our patients.

Dr. Eric Reines


With AI, it’s too soon to learn to stop worrying

Ken Goldberg provides a reasonable argument for tolerance when it comes to developments in artificial intelligence (“Let’s give AI a chance,” Opinion, May 30). As he puts it: “Let’s engage with AI and explore how it can combine and extend previous ideas, how it can help us learn new things, design new molecules, new medicines, new works of art.”

However, the argument should be balanced with some acknowledgement of possible mishaps. In “Cat’s Cradle,” Kurt Vonnegut describes ice-nine, which can cause any water it comes in contact with to become solid. Could AI discover such a molecule? On a more likely level, how about a virus that would wipe out the human race? Or all living things? How about a substance so addictive that one taste would cause a person to kill for it?


I’m all for exploring new ideas, but in the case of AI, a little caution may be called for.

William Vaughan Jr.

Chebeague Island, Maine