Machine Learning is NO Threat to Radiology
Artificial intelligence will replace humans.
We have heard and seen this discussion before.
Apparently, such a scary prediction now rears its ugly head in the field of Radiology. Catchphrases include "artificial intelligence" and "machine learning." People are discussing whether machines will replace radiologists. To me, the concept is laughable. It is as laughable as the concept of computers replacing humans once was. While it is undeniable that some jobs have been replaced, think auto assembly lines, there is no doubt in my mind that human adaptability and ingenuity transcends the ability of machines to send humans entirely into obsolescence.
In a recent article in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, December 2016 volume 13, Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the original proponents of and architects of the Affordable Care Act, suggests the following:
"The human reading a chest radiograph may be inclined to simply interpret the image, determining if it represents someone healthy or sick and, if sick, whether infection, fluid, tumor, or another issue is present. On the other hand, a machine will treat each tiny pixel on the screen as an individual variable and will seek to organize those pixels into shapes and patterns and, from there, make a diagnosis. "
Ridiculous assertion, if I may be so bold. How will treating each tiny pixel on the screen enable a machine to view the human whose parts are depicted on the image? How will organizing those pixels better evaluate the illnesses that formulate that person's problem list? And how will the machine then guide and assist the referring physicians who desire radiology input as to the next steps in their care paradigms?
I maintain that the exhortation that we radiologists treat the patient not the image is critical. A radiologist's value is not just in identifying abnormalities on images. Our value has long transcended that menial process. Daily, radiologists meaningfully contribute to patient care by identifying abnormalities, making recommendations, and, in the interventionalists' realm, intervening when necessary.
I do not fear machines. I recognize the value that machines can and will continue to add to our lives. But I am in no way concerned, nor do I think you should be, that machines will create human obsolescence.